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. Bill

    Isn't 42% less than 43%? "Virtually unchanged"....interesting

    July 23, 2014 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  2. Truth

    Black president, enough said.

    July 23, 2014 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  3. Mike

    It's CNN that's holding this ship afloat for Oblunder. You carry that water CNN. What a joke!

    July 23, 2014 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  4. James in Canada

    Take away the black vote and its like 15%

    July 23, 2014 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  5. Brian Wilkin

    Our country is not in good shape if we still have this many people still approving of the President's performance.

    July 23, 2014 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  6. The Truth Hurts

    This proves that Mitt Romney was only off by 5%.

    July 23, 2014 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  7. Hoosier

    Clinton and Obama are the only two presidents who reduced the deficit. Obama has orchestrated the greatest economic come back in our nation's history. Stock market over 17,000 from 6,000, unemployment falling, housing sky rocketing, kids coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, killed Bin Laden, and expanded Romney Care. America is the only civilized country in the world where medical bills and pregnancies are the number one cause of bankruptcy. Had we listened to republicans we would still be in a recession, like Europe. They brought the economy down under Bush, then tried to block the rescue. They are still pulling the emergency brake on the economy but the will of the American people to succeed is too strong. Thank you Obama. You have done an amazing job!!!

    July 23, 2014 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  8. Anonymous

    I love the way CNN spins their headlines. 42% approval rating is "not great but holding steady". I guess the same could be said about the Titanic sitting at the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean.

    July 23, 2014 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  9. obot

    obama has been the biggest failure in america's history!

    July 23, 2014 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  10. Kerwyn

    1,012 adult Americans is not a valid sample.

    July 23, 2014 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  11. Biff Baxter

    Dear CNN –

    There are distinct reasons as to why your viewer/readership numbers are dead last.

    I would suggest this post is a good example.

    July 23, 2014 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  12. ali

    Gallup shows Obama on immigration is at 31% and trending downward.

    July 23, 2014 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  13. Ray Nagin

    No comments yet CNN or is it just that there are no raging liberal comments bashing the GOP?

    July 23, 2014 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  14. midas360

    Not surprising. Obama has little experience and lacks leadership qualities.

    July 23, 2014 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  15. Anonymous

    A president should be judged, not by the difficulties he encounters, but by his responses to those difficulties. All political considerations aside, I can hardly imagine that Obama's responses have been much different than what his predecessors in the Oval Office would have done. Therefore I would rate him as "average" as he's not acting all that much differently than what I would have expected from Clinton or Bush.

    July 23, 2014 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  16. Scott in Michigan

    Only the Clinton News Network would try to spin 42% as positive because the numbers are "holding". Nearly 6 in 10 people disapprove of this guy and the way he has lead this country down the wrong path. Call it like it is CNN. He is a complete failure.

    July 23, 2014 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  17. Luke5323

    The president’s own executive orders (DACA for example) have led directly to the humanitarian crisis along
    the southern border, giving hope to children and their families that if they enter the country illegally they will
    be allowed to stay. We have to stop this madness. Google this: NUMBERSUSA .
    Once you are registered (join us), go to the "action board"

    July 23, 2014 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  18. Mike Allen

    This President, who I am disappointed by at times, could cure cancer, stop global warming and wipe out terrorism around the world and half of this country would still approve. I wonder why. Let's think about that for a minute, shall we?

    July 23, 2014 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  19. Mike Allen

    Did you catch that? I meant disapprove of course.

    July 23, 2014 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  20. really

    WOW I'm in the 42%! I couldn't be happier! Thank you Mr. President, Its been the best time of my life finally observing a smart president and statesman in my life. The problem is you will leave a void that cannot be and will not be easily filled. I will miss you when you leave, I already feel the depression of knowing another bone-headed ego driven politician with "bottom of the pond" thinking abilities will soon take over and we will languish back into the same old routine and quagmire of idiocracy. Its been a real hoot watching the bottom feeders twist and turn with every one of your answers of which they can't even fathom. You shook up the place on many levels, American needs a good shock to bring them out of their sleep and you have provided that. Cheers Sir!

    July 23, 2014 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  21. Chuck

    How did it get that High? 42% of Americans are still blind?

    July 23, 2014 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  22. DBF

    And these numbers are from a CNN poll! I don't really trust any polls these days but from what I hear from dems/repubs and independents, this number is way too high!

    July 23, 2014 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  23. Anonymous

    How can you realistically take those numbers and put a positive spin on them?

    July 23, 2014 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  24. Fireallofthem

    His numbers won't drop because there are so many that support him no matter what's he does. I voted for him twice and I feel duped and lied to. I feel sorry for our country if the best we can come up with to lead us are GWB and Obamma. I'm so tired of the lieing and deceit. And it frightens me that despite all of these huge problems we now have, they pale in comparison to the one problem that directly impacts our sovereignty, and that is the debt and financial crisis. Good luck getting anyone to talk about it though.

    July 23, 2014 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  25. Rick McDaniel

    The people who have no ability to see the truth about this man, will NEVER see the truth about him.

    July 23, 2014 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
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