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. Carlos Wetlock

    Believe that 99% of the 58% who DISAPPROVED the President were all WHITE. What a shame that it has to be broken down into a racial bias, but its true. Get it through your heads OLD WHITE PEOPLE, minorities are growing and here to stay. No election will ever be the same, thanks to PRESIDENT OBAMA we know that our voice is LOUD AND CLEAR. We will not let any of you bigoted nimrods get back into office and try to segregate the country again. The WHITE IS RIGHT is currently WRONG. Get with the program because this world is turning into the color PURPLE.

    July 23, 2014 11:23 am at 11:23 am |

    Among the entire sample, 32% described
    themselves as Democrats, 24% described themselves as Republicans,As of 2010.
    Gallup polling found that 31% of Americans identified as Democrats (tying a 22-year low), 29% as Republicans.
    CNN, please explain your reason for BIAS polling.

    July 23, 2014 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  3. citizenatlarge1

    Holding steady at 42 percent? On the strength of what? The world on fire? His foreign policy? The myriad of scandals surrounding his administration? His statesmanship? The shrinking middle class? An economy artificially propped up by the federal reserve printing worthless money? Your poll is either a fraud or close to half the citizens of this country are intellectually challenged.

    July 23, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  4. Longtimer


    remember/ over 50% of the time obama is fund raising. He community organizer priorities are shining through real good. As a leader of a World Power, well he has a failing grade. Be interesting what his grades were in college where they were sealed from the American Public? Hiding something like that tells volumes about him.
    You are fact free AND on fire. Ever hear of FERPA champ? Educational grades for everyone are sealed. As to your silly statement about fundraising- he is still the President and still available to do the business of this government. Funny especially when Bush was on vacation for 3 of his 8 years don't you think?

    July 23, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  5. Ed

    Obama! Obama! Obama! Let blame this president because the sun didn't come up in the morning. Can someone tell me this, how do the american sue this dead beat congress for not doing their jobs. The average salary of these clowns average well over $250K a year (and that's being conservitive), constantly voting themselves pay raises and in 2011 only work 109 day, do the math of what the make day for their bickering. To make make matters worst, not move the country forward for the good of the people. The MAJORITY of the american people have good grounds for suing the congress especially the House of Representative or impeaching them for dereliction of their duties. In a demorcary the majority rules. Not with this congress. They constantlyuse gorilla style politics. What does it say about this country and it poltices when on Inauguration Day there are congresmen meeting in a back room somewhere trying to figure out how derail a president instead of supporting him as the MAJORITY vote has requested. Oh these congressmen are real americans! What a bunch of goobers. Sounds like a plan of something just shy of what happen to President Kennedy. There is something wrong with this country and I bet we know what it is but wants no one wants to hear it, say it or be label it. I know! BEFORE YOU CAN LEAD YOU MUST LEARN TO FOLLOW!

    July 23, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  6. J Samuel Chase

    I'd like to know how in the world the number is that high. There are apparently an alarming number of people being polled who have no idea the condition of the world and the country over just the last year under this man's "leadership". Even a cursory look at the news will allow one to see the chaos that this man has done nothing to lead through. The nation is erupting in repeated scandals about his administration, the Supreme Court has over turned more of his exec. orders unanimously that any in history, the Obamacare debacle keeps getting worse, the borders are being swarmed with hundreds of thousands of illegals, the Gov. of Texas had to act on his own to call in the National Guard because Obama hasn't done anything, illegal aliens are protesting in OUR streets, citizens are rising up to stop the chaos, gun control is at an all time high yet shootings by criminals is continuing to increase and Americans hate their government more than ever. Thats just to name a handful of things in our own nation. Then, take the world scale... Iraq is crumbling, ISIS is rising, terrorism is thriving, Israel is being attacked by terrorists and being blamed for defending itself, Russia continues to show it's aggression, Putin does as he wishes in complete defiance of this president, a passenger plane has been blown from the sky, the dollar is no longer a leader in the world market and America's influence in the world fades away into the sunset. This president does not lead, he talks but doesn't act, ignores the will of the people, tramples the Constitution, writes his own laws, defies the Supreme Court, supports amnesty for all these illegals, stands by with inaction over the crises' pummeling our world and our country and continues with his political fundraising campaigns. Great priorities, great leadership. So, again, I don't understand how his numbers are even at 42%. How far have we fallen America?

    July 23, 2014 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  7. Bob in Ohio

    It is both amusing and sad to read comments on CNN's website accusing it to be liberal ( read "pro President Obama). Do they not realize if this were the case, why would CNN allow their comments to be posted? I just checked the "fair and balanced" website and did not find comment sections after their "news" postings. Now why is that? Hopefully someone will enlighten me. No, I am not a spokesperson for CNN.

    July 23, 2014 11:27 am at 11:27 am |

    Stats from this Poll :
    Among the entire sample, 32% describedthemselves as Democrats, 24% described themselves as Republicans.

    Based on Gallup polling: They found that 31% of Americans identified as Democrats, and 29% as Republicans.

    CNN, please explain your reason for BIAS polling.

    July 23, 2014 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  9. sly

    Best President in the past 50 years.
    Record stock market. Record 401k. Record deficit reduction.
    Health care for 50 million. Killed America's #1 enemy of all time.
    Best of all: 1st President since Ike to not start a war.
    President Obama is my President, and makes me proud to be an American!

    July 23, 2014 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  10. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    I'm just going to put this out there though I doubt it will be published. Last weekend I went on a little getaway. It was the 30 year class reunion for some. One of my good friends from way back is an Attorney. And is now going on to be a Prosecutor. I was saying how proud I was of him for overcoming hellified obstacles like coming from a broken home in a little one horse town. Anywho, the brother of another friend got upset and started attempting to bash our friend the Attorney, meanwhile, he's broke, no job and looks like the crypt keeper and all I could think of is he's exactly like the GOPT posters that talk about President Obama. He's a hater and so are many of you. πŸ˜†πŸ˜†

    July 23, 2014 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  11. I have lost count of the scandals

    Paul, you sound relieved.

    July 23, 2014 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  12. Dan Gordon

    The only reason President Obama isn't below Bush's 36% is because of the race based vote which will support him no matter what. Take that out of the mix and he would be below 30%.

    July 23, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  13. Anonymous

    Just goes to show that America is still full of "stupid" people.

    July 23, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  14. Kevin Carbonneau

    lol, all right wingers and there endless hate. Please proceed in taking away health insurance from millions of voters. too funny.

    July 23, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  15. CarrierSailor

    Who Is the author of that lie ?

    July 23, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  16. Brineybones

    Obama is an unmitigated narcissistic disaster for this nation. The 42% too blindly partisan to see this should have to take a mental competency test to retain their privilege of voting.

    July 23, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  17. Ian's Rushtache

    Anonymous says:
    July 23, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am
    There are 42% idiots that live in this country.

    The irony contained in this illiterate post is outstanding.

    July 23, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  18. catori Shadi

    And the fact that his rating is 4 times higher than Congress, no-one seems to care.

    Congress are less popular than polygamy and no-one gives a damn.

    July 23, 2014 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  19. Rosie

    Jason Seneker:
    Your comment, "We should require a certain education level to vote", is the very best solution to avert future preidential disasters like the Obama Administration.
    An intelligence-level-questionaire given prior to voting is a mandate that needs to be implemented by Congress ASAP – fortunately or unfortunately, the Democrat Party will become extinct immediately.

    July 23, 2014 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  20. Brineybones

    Are you sure his approval numbers are really that high? Folks, I think we have identified the ultimate low-info thinkers and voters; the 42% which need to be removed from the voting electorate for the good of this nation.

    July 23, 2014 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  21. frznagn

    It's the economy, stupid. Still waiting for that laser focus on the economy he's promised several times.

    July 23, 2014 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  22. Cin

    LOL Anonymous, I agree! I don't think it's that many, polls can ask questions to sway people one way or the other. It's rare that I find anyone who supports the president, voted for him, thinks he's doing a good job etc. So I never give much credit to the political polls, or any other poll, for that fact. I have not seen any evidence of the president doing anything good for our country. What HAS happened, is our country is becoming divided, and angry.

    July 23, 2014 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  23. El Warbo Grande

    @biodome, "Obama 42%, Republican congress 9%"

    You're citing old polls. Republicans have rebounded since the shutdown, and are now pretty much on par with Democrats in Congress. Perhaps this is because people are beginning to realize that some of the demands Republicans had leading to the shutdown really were necessary and that Obama's failure to negotiate may have been the real issue.

    Maybe we began to realize that if Republicans hadn't caved in the end, Obama would have gone all the way to default to keep his signature law exactly how he wanted itβ€”so now we know who really has America's future higher on their priorities list.

    July 23, 2014 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  24. RobertaZ

    That's 42% higher than a do-nothing "leader" should get

    July 23, 2014 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  25. Im Me

    Where are they getting these poll results from because I never voted on anything?

    July 23, 2014 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
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