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. WMD Searcher

    STILL BETTER THAN BOZO-D-CHIMP who let America be attacked REPEATEDLY, and then who went to war with the wrong country to find WMD that he knew weren't there to the tune of a couple of trillion wasted dollars.


    July 23, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  2. Tea Party Patriot

    Sarah Palin needs to step back in and make a run for the WH. She's the only one that can save us.

    July 23, 2014 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  3. FLIndy

    Got to love all the ignorant haters on here...this President could solve ALL the world's problems but they would still follow their "gods" at Faux News and their conservative radio shows which do such an extreme disservice to our country they should all be thrown in jail! You know they have nothing of substance when out of one side of their mouths they call Obama a lawless dictator who circumvents Congress to get what he wants done, and out of the other side he is weak, ineffective and hasn't accomplished anything! Which is it people?? Face it, most Americans don't know up from down and only care about their little lives. Without any facts or reason, they just go whichever way the political winds are blowing. Thank you President Obama for continuing to push forward in spite of all the obstruction and haters you have to deal with on a daily basis.

    July 23, 2014 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  4. craigorie

    Reagan's rating may have been at a "lofty" 63% in July 1986 but Obama's has not gone as low as Reagan's 35% in January 1983.

    July 23, 2014 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  5. rs

    Lucky Pierre

    Imagine if you will, a Quarterback going to a team that has lost for 8 years previous, and after losing, saying "well, this isn't my fault. It's the guy before me – he sucked." Leaders lead from the front – they take responsibility for both good and bad. Leaders don't make excuses, nor do they point fingers. I believe President Obama has it in him, if he could just get out of his own way.
    Imagine if you will being the quarterback and trying to play a game of football when the opposing team refuses to leave the locker room. Hint- the GOP is the opposing team, and they just forfeited.

    July 23, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  6. sammieb51

    The Pea Brains of the GOP have once again allowed their opinions to negate facts. Let me clue you - Bush at the same time in 2006 = 36% approval vs Obama current approval = 42%. also, you might note that Russia's approval rating in the US is right at 19%, while the GOP House approval rating is at 9%. This proves nothing however, unless you continue to vote for the morons you voted in office to begin with.

    July 23, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  7. Ray

    if Obama's at 42%, then we know there are people voting times. the real numbers can't possibly be over 10%

    July 23, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  8. mkuske

    Apparently CNN Polling Director Keating Holland has never heard of the term "rock bottom": a place from which you can realistically go no further. Virtually any president is going to get the support of a large majority of his party no matter what, which is the majority of Obama's support.

    Also I see he is still asking that ridiculous question about whether people oppose Obamacare because it is too liberal or not liberal enough. It's like he doesn't make the connection that if the law was made more liberal, a large percentage of the people who approve of it now would no longer approve of it.

    July 23, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  9. TruthHurts

    When you subtract the automatic 10% negro vote, he's really at 32%.

    July 23, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  10. Lynda/Minnesota

    Rudy NYC
    I wonder if Republicans are going to figure out that they are overreaching

    IS there such a thing as overreach in GOPerville, Rudy? I suspect Reince Priebus thinks that if the media keeps its focus on Obama, the most useless Congress in the history of the United States will continue to get a free pass.

    What everyday Americans DO think is being out media'ed with all the anti-Obama attention. Unless Dem's get out and vote mid-terms, the media AND Preibus will have won this battle .... again.

    Its disheartening that our useless Congress (in particular the same folks who've been clutching their pearls and wringing their hands at the necessity of what USED to be called doing their jobs, but has now been replaced with running for the cameras while whining every excuse under their belts) might get a reprieve and continue to be given a pat on the back by Americans not willing enough to stand up and vote for THEIR rights.

    We'll see in November how the most useless Congress in the history of the United States fares.

    July 23, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  11. wallym

    40% of the country would never believe Obama was doing a bad job no matter what he did. And probably 35% would never say he was doing a good job.

    July 23, 2014 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  12. Guest

    The next president few presidents will have bad ratings as well. The country is falling apart fast and the "leaders" just want their slice of the pie before it goes rotten. This isn't like the Great Depression, where some president will think of some great plan to help everyone get out. This is going to last for quite some time.

    July 23, 2014 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  13. Michael

    It is funny to read all of these right wingers posting about this failed president. It is not the more progressive and liberal minded people that sound like followers, it is them, with the same lousy and baseless arguments time and time again.

    I wish he had done more, but Obama's record and list of accomplishments is a very good one.

    1. Pull us out of a near depression
    2. Stock markets at an all time high
    3. Monthly job creation at 10 year highs
    4. Out of all wars
    5. Killing of Osama Bin Laden
    6. A form of government health insurance
    I don't think that is a whole list but it is enough, especially with this everything NO republican controlled tea party influenced congress.

    July 23, 2014 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  14. Scott

    @cnet: look at the poll, margin of error is plus or minus 3.5%. So yes, it's holding steady, and the graphic only disproves it if you don't look at the actual poll.

    July 23, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  15. ShawnDH

    42% is pretty decent for this period of a second term. I think Obama has done a really good job rebuilding the nation after GW Bush left it in ruins.

    July 23, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  16. Terry Poupart

    Proof that the political propaganda campaign being run by most of the mainstream media to protect the President has been extremely effective.

    July 23, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  17. DroneAlone

    Just goes to prove, you can't fool all the people all the time, but you can keep fooling 42% of the people most of the time.

    July 23, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  18. DC Johnny

    I love the comments from Obama defenders.

    "This president could solve all the problems...."
    "This president could cure cancer...."
    "This president could have 0% unemployment...."

    Hate to break it to you, but this president hasn't done any of those. He hasn't done much of anything positive.

    July 23, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  19. barryinlasvegas

    Only CNN and msnbc would try and make a 42% approval rating of Obama seem OK. Pathetic. The majority of Americans have said he can't do the job and good old CNN keeps trying to make lemonade out of a lemon.

    July 23, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  20. Unbelievable

    The reason Obama hasn't dropped despite his numerous Katrina moments is that 42% of voters are too blind to be offended by even the greatest of scandals or slights. Obama could devour an innocent child on live TV and he'd still have a 42% approval rating.

    July 23, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  21. larry

    The President is in over his head and now everyone knows it. But, there is still hope. He might be able to fund raise himself out of it.

    July 23, 2014 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  22. mkuske

    BTW, sammieb51...

    If you have to lie to make your point, then your point is not valid. I challenge you to cite a single major poll by an unbiased source that shows the House GOP approval at the ridiculously and fallaciously low 9% level.

    July 23, 2014 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  23. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    TruthHurts says:
    July 23, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am
    When you subtract the automatic 10% negro vote, he’s really at 32%.

    Wow!! Really???

    July 23, 2014 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  24. heyjoe1

    Even all of my Democrat friends are fleeing the Obama sinking ship.

    July 23, 2014 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  25. IvanVorick

    Who are you polling Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid?

    July 23, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
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