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. Anonymous

    i would like to know where these percentages of Americans polled come from. I am an American born and raised and never once was asked to poll. If a real poll was taken i bet the number would be much differnet than reported by CNN

    July 23, 2014 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  2. MIchael

    I wonder if we were to ask those 42% if they were on any type of government assistance program if we would see that more then half of them were. Makes you think....

    July 23, 2014 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  3. Kelly

    His numbers will never go below 42% doesn't matter how much he screws up.

    July 23, 2014 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  4. dave

    House republicans doing nothing has hurt Obama somewhat, but hurt House republicans more, as well as Congress in general. It's hurt the people and the economy much more. We might be better off if we had a full functioning Government. Immigration policy is so full of propaganda, it's hard to decipher it all, like they don't ask how many would like to have more workers in the US, or how many would like high unemployment, how many would like to be a job market with 9 billion, or just stay around 300 million in the labor pool. Part of Obama's disapproval is probably opposition to his stance of bringing in more workers with an amnesty. He could be talking about making economic conditions better for workers, at the same time he's talking bringing in more workers.

    July 23, 2014 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  5. Beth

    We now know how many Americans are on the dole...42%.

    July 23, 2014 07:50 am at 7:50 am |

    And what about the poll numbers of the HOUSE in congress?

    Did it even get out of the teens yet?

    July 23, 2014 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  7. john

    I love polls. I love how they are conducted, I love how the media portrays them as an accurate representation of the general population. there are ~318,501,000 people in the US. 1,012 adults represent 0.0003177384058448796% of the population. Polls are a joke and so are the companies that conduct them.

    July 23, 2014 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  8. jim

    Seriously, close to 60% of Americans believe the president cannot do his job and your article makes it sound like some type of victory?! "Challenges" he has faced? He has not "faced" a challenge yet – he has ducked and hid from them all bashfully biding his time until the book tour begins. The Iraqi crisis grows and ignored, Syria is a mess, thousands of understandably driven immigrants cross the border to states and a country that simply cannot financially support them. Talking and doing are two different things.

    July 23, 2014 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  9. Bill mitchell

    Over weighting every poll with Democrats will have that effect. I think in general it is CNN's position that less than 24% of Americans are Republicans. The amazing part is that only 24% of voters have managed to take and hold the House and now threaten for the Senate. Crazy right?

    July 23, 2014 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  10. Brian in DC

    Who are these 42%? I'm guessing they are extremely uninformed at best.

    July 23, 2014 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  11. seanster77

    what is really amazing is that 42% of the population still see him as less than an abject failure. Just astonishing.

    July 23, 2014 07:54 am at 7:54 am |

    But those 42% think he literally GOD. Too bad.....worst pres since WW2.

    July 23, 2014 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  13. bgj

    "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."

    amazing. that number should't change at all. it should be, and remain, zero. Mr. Obama is nothing like a strong leader, shares no American values that he displays, and doesn't care about real people, only the ideal people in his ivory tower utopian world.

    July 23, 2014 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  14. DroneAlone

    If you believe the hope and change slogan you can keep the hope and change slogan... Period!

    July 23, 2014 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  15. cleat

    and this was a cnn poll... that shows how bad it is... usually a presidential (obama anyway) poll on CNN means a 123% approval rating...

    July 23, 2014 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  16. Poll is a Joke

    His numbers will always be around the 40 percentile.

    After all, that is about the # on the dole.

    July 23, 2014 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  17. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I have great admiration and respect for THIS President.
    He has earned them both.
    I cannot fathom of anyone else that could've handled in such an effective, focused, and intelligent way the crisis that embroiled us when he was first elected.
    This is a good man through and through.
    I stand with him proudly.

    July 23, 2014 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  18. JT

    Pretty close to the 47% percent Romney talked about.

    July 23, 2014 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  19. Rachel

    I can't believe his approval rating is 42 percent. They must've polled the people over at MSNBC to come up with that high of a number.

    July 23, 2014 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  20. gthog61

    and we see why the country as we know it is doomed

    July 23, 2014 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  21. luftwaffls

    If he keeps trying to get us into a war with Russia, it's going to go a whole lot lower.

    July 23, 2014 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  22. Chester Cheetah

    Nice spin on a negative poll. "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."

    In other words, the majority of Americans don't like Obama, but at least they don't like him any less...;

    July 23, 2014 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  23. Al

    How can his numbers take a hit, he's not man enough to accept blame for anything that has gone wrong with his administration. He's only managed to accept credit for the two things that's been done correctly, kill OBL ok only one thing that's he's done correctly.

    July 23, 2014 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  24. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    I'm sure he's still twice as high as Congress. What's your goal Fox-lite to see his approval at 0? Then will you be satisfied or will you go for the negative numbers?


    July 23, 2014 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  25. Michael C Summers

    What are the numbers if you eliminate the black block that was canvassed for the poll?

    July 23, 2014 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
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