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. 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 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  2. Dave - Phx

    Hard to get anything done, when unpatriotic, rich, greedy obstructionists block your path at every turn.

    July 23, 2014 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  3. Robert

    I don't believe this report anymore than I believe President "Pinocchio" Obama. With his multitude of scandals, suing our own governors for doing his primary responsibility in protecting our border, lying about the House of representatives to cover for Harry Reids monumental number of "pocket vetos" in the do nothing Senate, creating the largest poverty class since the great depression, stealing our money through Obamacare, his pathetic foreign policy, and now sending pink slips to those who liberty while they are in active duty In the field.
    I would be surprised if his approval rating is above 20%. If it is above 20% it is because of his "Pinocchio" fund raising tour.

    July 23, 2014 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  4. Srcactus

    This whole Obama thing is unrevealing, Obama care cannot find stability, The IRS and NAS have us furious and there are unattended flames in a dozen places around the globe and we are told that campaign fund raising is not a distraction?????? We have idealogs in congress and a President that is not interested in presiding. We have a mess and we did it to ourselves!

    July 23, 2014 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  5. Anonymous

    If his approval rating goes anywhere near Bush's lowest ,or even congress's, then I'll be concerned.

    July 23, 2014 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  6. Tone

    The only reason his poll are low is because of the color of his skin.

    July 23, 2014 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  7. Independent Thinker

    I am not a Republican or a Democrat, so please let's leave partisan feelings out of this. While he can give a great speech, America's patience with him has been wearing thin and will continue to over the next 2 years. Obama has either stumbled or failed at nearly every difficult decision he has been faced with during his presidency. When it comes to International policy and politics he is batting 000. America is waking up to the fact that he is not only a weak leader, but in fact doesn't lead at all. I don't wish failure on him, but this 42% approval rating will trend steeply downward over the next 2 years as more Americans come to the same realizations that I have.

    July 23, 2014 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  8. JT

    93% of African-Americans voted for the President despite their unemployment numbers rising by 4%. Given that African Americans account for 13.6% of the U.S. population, that would give about %12.6 support for the President. This could account for the ten percentage points that Bush lost after Katrina.

    July 23, 2014 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  9. TM

    42% is nothing to celebrate, but with Congress getting 15% the President has some cover. If the pathological obstruction from the Grand Old Tea Party was popular with the voters then Congress' poll numbers would be well over 50%. This "Do NOTHING" Congress has failed miserably.

    July 23, 2014 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  10. MrFreeze

    Well I'll say I didn't vote for him.

    July 23, 2014 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  11. Datablade

    No surprise as Obama's core base will support him no matter what his failures in leadership (weak), constantly encouraging division between Dems and Repubs, etc.etc. etc. Unfortunately the U.S. has a rather weak-minded electorate.

    July 23, 2014 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  12. lews

    Could you imagine the poll numbers if this news organization and others would speak the truth about this administration?

    July 23, 2014 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  13. skatingonglue

    Bogus poll- dems were +8.

    How about you poll without sample bias, see how popular President Bankshot is then?

    This is getting boring, cnn...

    July 23, 2014 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  14. 2kmaro

    When the only ones left supporting him are the blindly faithful, then what do you expect? Look at the other side of the number: 58% disapprove of him and have for quite some time, and continue to do so. I don't know if he's the worst POTUS ever, but in my memory of presidents during my lifetime, he definitely ranks #1 Worst Ever.

    July 23, 2014 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  15. Robert

    Because obama is being called by himself and the media a black man and not a biracial man he will always have 100% of the blacks . And the Gays , illegals,far left ,liberals and racial communist like himself those groups make up almost 40% of America and will support him no matter what .

    July 23, 2014 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  16. Michael powers

    NOW, minus 15% from the 42% because Communist News Network's survey was slanted and the people polled were Obama shills and you get the REAL approval rating for Obama of 27%.

    July 23, 2014 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  17. skatingonglue

    Bogus polll, you oversampled dems. Dems at +8 over Repubs? Really?

    How about you do a poll with coherent samples, see how Preezy Bankshot does then.

    Until then, you're just pushing propaganda. Yawn.

    July 23, 2014 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  18. Uncle Sam

    If the Democrats and republicans would stop playing politics maybe improvements could be made.

    July 23, 2014 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  19. Government Waste Rules

    Most useless administration in history.

    July 23, 2014 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  20. surfsock1

    The fact that the black population will support his due to his color is part of the reason the numbers aren't as bad as they should be.

    July 23, 2014 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  21. Tennessee Bob

    Makes it look to all readers that there are "No Responses..."

    July 23, 2014 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  22. Uniquitous

    LOL, So your point here is, "Well...he's still better than Bush." Haven't heard that one before.

    July 23, 2014 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  23. Jimmyjam048

    Still higher than our Co greases, the worst Congress in history.

    July 23, 2014 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  24. TheSadTruth

    Still a higher approval rating than Congress. Sorry, Radical Conservatives.

    July 23, 2014 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  25. william

    I am shocked at his high rating. Should be in the 10% range with the country in the shape it's in. Guess the 47% figure Romney talked about was pretty accurate. If somebody is giving you stuff, you probably approve of their actions.

    July 23, 2014 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
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