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. Philbert

    42% of low information voters will continue to blindly support the worst president in modern history.

    July 23, 2014 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  2. dave

    well he's still offering handouts so thats about as low as he'll go

    July 23, 2014 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  3. captcaps

    Much Higher than Baby Bush and Vice President Brain Dead Cheney .....Can't wait for Hill to get elected and the total destruction of the Republican Party of No. When The Base can't win a race the republican are gone without a trace.. And to think that I was once a republican and now i can't stand to even listen to any of their Cry Baby Retorical Tripe....Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    July 23, 2014 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  4. Jerry

    I think CNN got the poll nymbers reversed, it should read 24%....

    July 23, 2014 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  5. Joe

    CNN Liberal Common Sense:

    "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."

    1. Does not celebrate a 42%
    2. Does celebrate it holding steady.
    3. Says that 42% is the same as 43%

    My two year old knows better.

    July 23, 2014 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  6. infonomics

    Not a bad score card for a President who has triple bogeyed every hole on the back nine.

    July 23, 2014 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  7. Tim

    Good Ole CNN... reminds of the saying.. figures never lie and liars never figure. After their multiple mentions of the "Katrina" moment, they failed to state was that even after GW's "Katrina" moment, his approval rating was 4% HIGHER than Obama's is now. Seems like that figure puts things a little more in perspective, but hey, CNN isn't to be bothered with little things like "facts". Thanks for the entertainment Ted!

    July 23, 2014 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  8. Awaal Oastad

    Does Mr. Obama care? Do I care? Does anyone but Sarah Palin and Fox news cares?

    July 23, 2014 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  9. Steven

    1,012 Opinions represent is enough for CNN to decide what 330 million people think, I don't like Obama but polls like this are ridiculous.

    July 23, 2014 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  10. Ryan

    LIES all lies

    July 23, 2014 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  11. Lily

    Man, he looks old in the photo. I guess 6 years of not knowing what you are doing as POTUS will age one quickly.

    July 23, 2014 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  12. fumes

    Poor guy has aged in office like everyone else. The job sucks. Bravo Barrack Obama for taking it on and being our president.

    July 23, 2014 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  13. Spgfld Tom

    42%? Who are these pollsters talking to? Michelle? Joe Biden? The President of Guatemala?

    July 23, 2014 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  14. Dennis in LA

    42% of people STILL believe Obama is doing a good job. Must be the same people who believe space aliens walk among us and Elvis still lives.

    July 23, 2014 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  15. Snail Guy

    The bad news is, he sucks as a international leader and President. The good news is, it's almost over and Chicago still needs community organizers.

    July 23, 2014 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  16. Jeff

    Of course it is different than Bush. The difference is that the media slammed President Bush unrelentingly (not saying he did a good job), but refuse to cover any of Obama's situations with the same intensity.

    July 23, 2014 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  17. Doug in Jax

    Leave it to CNN to polish the turd.

    July 23, 2014 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  18. Sfer

    Actually, I'm suprised it's that high..

    July 23, 2014 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  19. snafubar

    Bush at 43% – WORST POLL NUMBERS EVER.

    Obama at 42% – Not too bad.

    July 23, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  20. jpmichigan

    The Presidents approval rating will continue to go DOWN more so than up. Crisis after crisis has shown not to be his platform, his platform is fundraising and campaigning. Yet not many Democrats want him there to campaign for them. He should have moved faster on the Plane that was shut down to prevent removal of evidence by pro-Russian and Russian soldiers. The weapon was Russian, the instructors of its use were Russian and shortly after the plane came down the weapon was taken back to Russia., then the plane parts, black boxes, looting of luggage and passengers, plain disrespect was shown, a Russian cultural thing.

    July 23, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  21. WiltonManors

    There are 42% of Americans who would support Obama regardless of anything he did. I doubt his numbers can go much lower no matter what he does or doesn't do.

    July 23, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  22. snafubar

    No bias at CNN, is there?

    July 23, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  23. Steve L.

    As far as I am concerned, the focus of the next presidential election needs to be stopping illegal immigration, returning illegal aliens to their home countries, and stopping the government surveillance of Americans

    July 23, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  24. getajobhippies

    42% of the population is not paying attention to what obama is doing, or more appropriately not doing. This guy has more than checked out he is just taking an 8 year vacation on our dime. congress is not much better. we need real change and it starts with someone who has had a real job before and knows how the economy works not just someone who "read about it in the newspaper"

    July 23, 2014 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  25. bmurdoc

    How can anybody actually think he's doing a good job? Seriously.

    July 23, 2014 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
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