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. Alex

    Why is this "breaking news" on CNNs website? Who cares what his approval rating is?

    July 23, 2014 07:08 am at 7:08 am |

    Wow. I had no idea that 58% of U.S. citizens were racists. (And yes, that is sarcasm for the net-impaired.)

    July 23, 2014 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  3. tayllor1234

    barry's numbers are holding steady at "not great"
    Time to celebrate liberals. LOL

    July 23, 2014 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  4. Gurgyl

    –how about the entire panel of republican Congress? Zero. Their only aim is Pres. Obama to one term president, and failure. This world knew. If USA is smart, sack entire congress idiots. Did they pass jobs-Bill? No, minimum wage raise? Green energy? No. Infrastructure? No immigration? No. Listen, this president is a very smart and timely. So only now you–USA have health insurance. God bless!!!!!

    July 23, 2014 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  5. Greg3726

    So if I were a really poor student and I brought my report card home I could tell my parents that I got a D+ but don't worry because my grades are "Holding steady". Talk about a slanted headline. How about this instead:
    "Obama approval remains at historical lows". Paul, you try very hard to paint a picture that Obama's rating is a glass half full but in fact the glass is empty.

    July 23, 2014 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  6. realist512

    I for one support him. He has not run off to war. He got us a more reasonable approach to healthcare. He is arguing in the middle for reasonable immigration reform. Congress gets a -30 percent rating from me.

    July 23, 2014 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  7. garypsmith321

    I'm guessing that means 42% of people polled aren't aware of the world around them.

    July 23, 2014 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  8. Scott

    I would have thought it would have been at least 47%...

    July 23, 2014 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  9. Concerned Netizen

    Right. Must be his stunning foreign policy , or perhaps all he has done to this country domestically. or maybe, just maybe.. It's his golf swing.

    July 23, 2014 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  10. G_Edwards

    "Not great"...but the average (48%) over his time is office is less than that for Pres Bush's (49%). And given it's "holding" in the low 40's, it continues to drop.


    July 23, 2014 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  11. Polar Bear

    That's about the percentage of people getting handouts. No surprise they still approve of him.

    July 23, 2014 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  12. hatenapa

    Not bad considering the constant erroneous pummeling from right wing lie sheets.

    July 23, 2014 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  13. adrock

    he's a joke!!! wake up...

    July 23, 2014 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  14. Steve

    Obama stumbles fecklessly from one catastrophe to another, to which he is neither responsible nor influential.

    July 23, 2014 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  15. AmericansRights

    Anyone that approves of this excessive liar and anti American is as dumb as he is

    July 23, 2014 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  16. reggie53

    The only reason that Obama's ratings are holding steady is because the people who support him do not have the ability to think for themselves and they drank too much of the kool aid. They do not want to lose their government freebies so that is why they still support him. Oh boy...what has America come to......a whole lot of parasites who are not willing to support themselves by working and paying their own way.

    July 23, 2014 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  17. d

    I think you have the number backwords, IT SHOULD BE 24% !

    July 23, 2014 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  18. David H. Thoreau

    CNN's polling company, ORC, is owned by a conservative Tea Party contributor who at one point refused to support Romney because he was too liberal. Polling is an art and not a science, There are many variables that can be easily manipulated to skew the results. Try again, CNN, but with a more credible polling company!

    July 23, 2014 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  19. NavyVet

    All you sheep who voted for him twice feel stupid yet? You put him there based on your personal social issue oppinion (abortion,gay rights, womans rights) but you didnt care about his experience as a leader in politics. Hope you learned a lesson!!

    July 23, 2014 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  20. Cheryl

    Somehow CNN spins it that Obama is not as bad as Bush. He is the worse, spends more time fundraising, than being
    the President of the United States. That might be a good thing, keep him from any more Obamacare moments.

    July 23, 2014 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  21. brownbuttonglutton

    Poll was conducted by CNN so we know the numbers are lower than 42.

    July 23, 2014 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  22. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN

    The GOP obstruction of obamas policies at the expense of the country will come back to HAUNT them big time in November . They have been doing it for SIX YEARS and in spite of their GOP SABATUAGE Obama HAS brought the country BACK from the bush abbis!!!!!!

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

    What do the 42% base the opinion on? Obama does nothing. He has done nothing about runaway healthcare costs, corporate welfare, the destruction of the middle class, escalating college fees-escalating college loans merry-go-round or our dilapidated trade policies. His "do nothing" phylosophy does nothing but invite attacks from the repubs.

    July 23, 2014 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  24. T. Tim SniffinObutte

    – Ukraine being taken over by Russia
    – Civilian Airliner shot down without any reprocussions
    – China bullying our Pacific allies
    – Iran still developing nuclear weapons
    – Obama demanding $500 million to train terrorists in Syria
    – Obama demanding $4 billion for illegal immigrant assistance programs
    – The IRS is blatantly being used as a political weapon
    – Widespread and blatant spying in US citizens (even after Obama stated that it was NOT happening)
    – Major US city files bankruptcy
    – $17 trillion in debt
    – etc., etc. etc...

    Continue to guzzle down that Obama-cult Koolaide... Drink it straight from the tap!

    July 23, 2014 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  25. DonJuan1943

    Obama has handled all of the negative events with dignity and grace; showing sincere and competent corrections whenever things go wrong. I may not totally approve of Obama's performance; but I do continue to trust his judgement. Obama is much more competent than his criminally negligent predecessor.

    July 23, 2014 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
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