July 23rd, 2014
06:00 AM ET
9 years ago

CNN Poll: Obama's numbers not great but holding steady

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama's poll numbers are nothing to brag about, but there's little evidence he has suffered so far this year a "Katrina moment" that caused his predecessor's numbers to plummet.

A new CNN/ORC International survey indicates that public opinion of the President has barely budged in the wake of new challenges that Obama has faced this year.

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According to the poll, which was released Wednesday, the President's approval rating among Americans stands at 42%. That's not great, but it's basically unchanged since March.

Only 42% believe that Obama can manage the government effectively. Again, nothing to celebrate, but it's virtually unchanged from the 43% who felt that way in March.

zzz poll

"When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005, the biggest impact on attitudes toward George W. Bush came in the number who said that he could manage the government effectively. That number dropped 10 points, and no other personal quality measured at that time changed as much," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Using that as a definition of a 'Katrina moment,' it looks like Obama has not experienced a similar drop in the summer of 2014, in part because his numbers already took that hit last year, and have stabilized since then."

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The survey indicates there have been one-to-two point changes (which are within the poll's sampling error) in the number of Americans who say that Obama is a strong leader, that he shares their values, and that he cares about people.

"Once again, those numbers are not good news for the White House, but the clear indication is that the President's problems pre-date the current immigration crisis along the Mexican border, or anything else that has happened this summer, and that those problems have not made things significantly worse for the President," Holland added.

Obama drop started last year

Obama's numbers edged down after late spring and summer following controversies last year over the Edward Snowden intelligence leaks and congressional investigations into IRS targeting of conservative political groups. Then came October and the politically charged botched rollout of the website for Obamacare, his signature domestic policy achievement.

Coupled with legislative setbacks, many pundits labeled 2013 the worst year of Obama's presidency. And for the first time since taking over at the White House in 2009, a majority of the public surveyed disapproved of his job performance.

Obama's approval ratings slightly rebounded earlier this year before edging down to their current standing in the low 40's in most national public opinion polling.

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The release of the new CNN Poll comes after the crisis along the southern border dominated headlines for weeks. Prior to that controversy, the scandal rocking the Department of Veterans Affairs was in the media spotlight.

The President is also facing two pressing international challenges: the bloody fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, and the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Prior to these two international flashpoints, Obama was dealing with the increased bloodshed in Iraq, the ongoing civil war in Syria, as well as the controversial swapping of five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay for the release of a U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan.

What numbers mean for midterms?

Obama's approval rating is a key indicator of the President's standing with Americans and of his clout here in the nation's capital. And during a midterm election cycle, it's also considered an important barometer of how a president's political party may fare on Election Day, when control of Congress is at stake.

"You don't want a president at 42% anytime, especially in a midterm election year, when the approval rating is essentially the north star. Midterm elections are determined most of all by the president's approval rating," said CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.

The poll doesn't appear to offer any "new discouragement for Democrats, but there's nothing to cheer about," King added.

"I will give you this caution. The biggest drop since January is among Democrats. Obama's lost 11 percentage points among Democrats since the beginning of the year. Perhaps closer to the election, when Democrats are rallying a bit, that number could tick up a bit," King said.

So how does Obama stack up against his most immediate two-term predecessors as they marked their sixth Independence Day in the White House?

George W. Bush stood at 36% in the summer of 2006. Bill Clinton was at 61% in July 1998. And Ronald Reagan was at a lofty 63% in July 1986.


Bush's low numbers helped fuel the Democratic wave in the 2006 midterms, when the GOP lost control of both the House and the Senate.

The silver lining for Obama and his party: While the President's numbers are nothing to cheer about, the approval rating for Congress is in the gutter. The most recent polling, by Gallup, indicates that only 15% of Americans approve of the job federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill are doing, with eight in 10 giving Congress a thumbs down.

"It's easy for Americans to dislike Congress because most of them are familiar, at most, with only three members - their two U.S. Senators and the U.S. Representative from their district. That leaves 532 strangers who are easy to despise," Holland added.

Democrats have a 55-45 majority in the Senate (53 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the party). But in the midterms, the party is defending 21 of the 36 seats up for grabs, with half of those Democratic-held seats in red or purple states. In the House, the Democrats need to pick up a very challenging 17 Republican-held seats to win back the majority from the GOP.

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The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International from July 18-20, with 1,012 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

soundoff (545 Responses)
  1. Debbie

    You've got to be kidding me. Those 42% must have lost their minds.

    July 23, 2014 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  2. gijo7171

    Good one CNN! This President is the worst in my lifetime BY FAR!

    July 23, 2014 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  3. roger cain

    How on earth is this rating so high? King ZERO is awful.

    July 23, 2014 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  4. pollito

    42% might be a higher number than the reality we are experiencing, certainly we are leading from behind or, in other words, following, whatever happened to a strong, respectable leadership, the transparency promised and I could go on to a more extent list. Sorry times we are living.

    July 23, 2014 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  5. RomneyWho

    Stiff Necked People . . . “stubborn”, “untractable”, “not to be led”. How foolish "We The People" 🙁

    July 23, 2014 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  6. pogostick

    It doesnt matter what a president's poll rating is like during his second term.

    July 23, 2014 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  7. Shedevil

    The stupidity of the American people never ceases to amaze me.

    July 23, 2014 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  8. Name

    This is "breaking news"

    July 23, 2014 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  9. Too funny!

    Haha, I just love your way of thinking, he didn't get any worse than his already horrible standings so I guess that's good.. Right? LOSERS!

    July 23, 2014 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  10. Dave in DC

    Can CNN try ANY harder to spin this? Just report it CNN, don't turn it into a sermon. His poll numbers are abysmal. 42%?

    July 23, 2014 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  11. Steve in MI

    This is the built in 45% that Mitt Romney spoke of. Those who recieve financial help from the government, minorities, entrenched Democrats... This President could nuke the moon and there would still be 45% that approve of his abilities.

    July 23, 2014 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  12. Jack

    The weakest president I have ever seen in US history.

    July 23, 2014 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  13. CHIP MAN

    On the brighter side of things his golf game has improved 82 percent.

    July 23, 2014 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  14. Jesus

    >holding steady at 40

    not bad. lowest poll #s in history even with the hoard of idiot democrats supporting him.

    July 23, 2014 07:00 am at 7:00 am |
  15. Matt

    Proof that 42% of Americans don't have fully functional brains

    July 23, 2014 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  16. gijo7171

    I love thsi President

    July 23, 2014 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  17. Dan

    How 42% of Americans can support this administration is beyond me.

    July 23, 2014 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  18. wjm980

    How can that be? According to the libs, Obama is solely responsible for the "improved" job situation. Of course those of us that are not delusional know that Obama has done little to nothing to impact the improvement in the job market. In fact, the main reason it has improved as much as it has is because of the flood of people permanently leaving the job market, only to rely on the government for their needs. But then that's what Democrats want.

    July 23, 2014 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  19. gijo7171

    When will CNN stop covering for Obama?

    July 23, 2014 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  20. Mason

    Considering Obama has no Leadership Skills, these numbers are good! <-----

    July 23, 2014 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  21. Reality check

    Breaking NEWS!!!
    This is the pro BO media trying to deny a sinking ship. I would be surprised if Obma's true poll ratings are higher than 30-35% right now if that.

    July 23, 2014 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  22. obviously obvious

    Great job, CNN! You referred to Bush early and often in this article and did your best to make my 42% approval rating seem like a good thing. Keep it up and you will stay off of my IRS hit list.

    July 23, 2014 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  23. gijo7171

    Thanks CNN! You have kept the low info voters ignorant enough to give us 4 more years of this Joker.

    July 23, 2014 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  24. stateng

    I am surprised it isn't lower. All polls are around 40%.

    July 23, 2014 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  25. biodome

    Obama 42%, Republican congress 9%. Thanks to the ACA I'll be voting against Republicans for years to come 🙂

    July 23, 2014 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
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