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. Jamal

    "but there’s little evidence he has suffered so far this year a “Katrina moment” that caused his predecessor’s"....... Yeah, maybe if you are in a coma or you can't read or hear.

    July 23, 2014 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  2. surfsock1

    His numbers aren't as bad as they should be because the black population will support him no matter what he does because they perceive him to be black...a little racist if you ask me.

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

    I didn't realize that so many of the sheep still believed this guy.

    July 23, 2014 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  4. rhaas55

    Obama's polling numbers hold steady at ~42%. Big deal, the man is no longer of much importance to us. Let him fade quietly back into the obscurity he came from.

    July 23, 2014 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  5. Sirock

    It's hard to believe that 42% of Americans are that stupid.

    July 23, 2014 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  6. Lynda/Minnesota

    Obamacare. Obama's "Katrina" moment. Obama "fundraising". There's been quite a lot of GOPerville talking points being floated around on CNN lately.

    July 23, 2014 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  7. Shame

    The blind-faithers for Obama were the only ones polled and he still only got a 42% approval. Nothing is going right, how could anyone like what the country and world is coming to?

    Shame n the 42% and for the children who have to inherit the mess we have left them.

    July 23, 2014 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  8. street smart

    Up from last week. Next week it willl be at 50%, so & so forth.......

    July 23, 2014 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  9. Pat Henry

    42% has the same status as being the room's tallest midget.

    July 23, 2014 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  10. Chris

    It doesn't hurt when you guys run interference for the 6 or so scandals he has running at any given point in time. Bush was whipped like a junk yard dog in the press for one of the worst hurricanes in history. Seems fair.

    July 23, 2014 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  11. JFS3

    Of course they are holding steady. Some of the Democrats won't admit that he's not a good President, just as some Republicans will never admit that Bush wasn't a good President.

    July 23, 2014 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  12. foreverflag

    Are you kidding, the real numbers are probably in the 20's, Who are you polling? the wackos that support him at any cost

    July 23, 2014 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  13. rob c

    Not single person I know can stomach this fraud... Try polling the real world for a change

    July 23, 2014 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  14. Dean

    Obama's entire presidency has been a 'Katrina moment'.

    July 23, 2014 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  15. Todd

    Was this poll taken from just his family?

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

    Reality check the approval rating isnt issue its jobs,government on hold isnt managing its spending effectively on whole. Means local state an federal levels spending still out of control,using taxs to buy imports still causing more good paying tax payers to loose there jobs .Case in point total cost of spending on imported computors an printers by goverment for governemnt is in billions costing americans to loose million jobs could put people to work that paid taxs

    July 23, 2014 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  17. Robocop

    I can't believe I voted for Obama twice. He is a lame duck. He was supposed to be a president that was going to help people and get us away from the oligarchy, but instead he's made the 1% stronger than ever, shrunken and hurt the middle class. He's a corporate stooge like the rest of them!

    July 23, 2014 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  18. beancounterz

    Misleading results. Consider 47% of the polled are GOP supporters who will never give the president a positive rating. This leaves only 53 percent of the respondents with a viable "opinion", so if 42 out of 100 including GOP supporters give the President a positive rating, that is 42 out of 53 non-GOP members (GOP don't have an opinion, they have a policy to reject the president for anything), this leaves 79% of the real population of the US who support the president and his policies. Why doesn't CNN get someone who actually knows how to properly do survey analysis to actually report of them rather than taking sound bites from the twitter feed to fill their article.

    July 23, 2014 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  19. Jay

    Here's the difference, Bush's number fell because the media didn't lie the blame where it should have been, and that was on the State for not asking for Federal Assistance sooner. If Bush had moved in without being asked there would have been States Rights issues galore.
    Obama's ratings, well they're horrible because over half the country disagrees with his policies, both domestic and foreign. I can't recall any other president that has done more to divide America than he has. He was to be the hope and change we could believe in. Well, in my opinion, his hope and change has been a benefit for other countries, just not America.

    July 23, 2014 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  20. tom

    WIth all of this immigration a n d the rest of what is going on with the prez. you are still telling me that his numbers are this good? I have a hard time believing it.

    July 23, 2014 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  21. Jed Clampett

    Obama is the WORST ever POTUS. He is a liar. He is highly unqualified. He is a Socialist. He is a Divider. He is anything but a leader of the U.S. The rest of the world is laughing at the US for electing this clown, not once, but twice. Heaven help us if Shillary gets elected. The sheeple of the US better wake up.

    July 23, 2014 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  22. junkit

    that means that 42% still believe his lies! 58% got it!

    July 23, 2014 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  23. Charlie

    You and I both know the approval rating is no where close to 42%, more like 24%.

    July 23, 2014 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  24. John

    The headline might as well read "42% of America is mentally deficient"

    July 23, 2014 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  25. Ray Nagin

    Yeah, that last Quinnipac pole didn't sit too well with CNN staff, so they decided to conduct their own while the Golfer in Chief is conducting a fund raising mission.

    July 23, 2014 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
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