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 am done voting for democrats ( independent voter )

    July 23, 2014 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  2. nuclear mike

    With approximately 40% of many states on welfare & food stamps then this 42% is not surprising at all.

    July 23, 2014 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    I wonder if Republicans are going to figure out that they are overreaching, most particularly with their hypocritical criticism of foreign policy. They've been overreaching on manufactured scandals, too. But, I think more and more Americans are simply ignoring what the Republicans are saying because they know what they're saying is meaningless.

    When Bush-43 was in office, their words would have branded themselves as "against us and with the terrorists". That was the the Bush administration had drawn, you were either "with us" and the bad policies that accompanied it, or you were "with the terrorists" if you so much as criticized the administration about anything. You were branded un-American, whatever that means.

    July 23, 2014 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  4. Reilley

    How in the name of all that is sane can you take those numbers and put a positive spin on them

    July 23, 2014 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  5. CNN Poll

    Breaking News: We asked the same other liberals in the propaganda, er, news, room, and 42% still favored our fundraiser-in-chief, regardless of the lies, incompetence, and failures. They're all confident the recent failures of leadership this administration is dealing with, will fade into the background with each story we fail to cover, just like the other lies, failures, and scandals have. In the mean time Obama will attend several fundraisers each day that he is not golfing or covering up some misdeed or ethical lapse.

    July 23, 2014 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  6. scarey71

    There's a racist block in the U.S that has never been a factor in this type of polling before.It would be fascinating to get a reading without his race being a factor.I'd bet he'd jump 8-10%

    July 23, 2014 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  7. Kurt

    The liberal media bias is at work. What does Obama's poll numbers have to do with Bush and a hurricane? Bush's problem was caused by a natural disaster, and he chose to view it from the air so that his security detail (required of every President) did not interfere with aid workers. Also, every sentence about Obama's low poll numbers end in "but" as if they are trying to defend his horrible record that the people are starting to realize. Obama's issues are not caused by natural disasters, but rather him not being an effective leader and making naïve decisions (such as not leaving a residual force in Iraq and creating a power vacuum).

    July 23, 2014 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  8. Roy

    Why does the approval rating of 42% matter we are stuck with Obama for the next couple plus years like it or not.

    July 23, 2014 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  9. Jerry

    Worst president ever

    July 23, 2014 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  10. doesky

    Well the Repub/Dem split is approx 50/50 during elections. Apparently 40% of all voters still believe that Obama is god so that translates to the idea that 80% of Dem voters are morons. OTOH, the 10% of voters that still had faith in Bush translates to saying that 20% of R voters are morons. That's my logical takeaway. Also, it sure is convenient for Obama that the MSM is a bunch of democratic bootlickers and throne sniffers.

    July 23, 2014 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  11. Chavez

    I think at this point we're just numb to Obama's incompetence. At this point I don't think he could have a "Katrina" moment.

    July 23, 2014 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  12. Skeptimist

    It is both instructive and perversely amusing to consider that while the President's 42% national approval rating is nothing to brag about, it exceeds the scores achieved by Congress or any other political personalities. (Abraham Lincoln's numbers are still a bit dismal in some neighborhoods.) That's probably an accurate reflection of the state of American society – we just don't like each other anymore.

    July 23, 2014 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  13. pkMyt1

    Still 6x the rating for Congress and people will not vote them out.

    July 23, 2014 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  14. love344

    there was NO Katrina moment CNN... light bulb...

    July 23, 2014 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  15. Partisan

    This guy could not lead his way out of a paper bag.

    July 23, 2014 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  16. SomeEngineer

    There are only two options this is true.

    1. Americans have their head buried under sand
    2. This poll is full of you know what.

    July 23, 2014 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  17. Reality Check

    What else would you expect with 47% of the country either not paying taxes, collecting welfare, food-housing subsidies or free medical care. Add to that his sky high approval ratings among African-Americans and its easy to see why the approval number will not change. Romney was right.

    July 23, 2014 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  18. Ted

    I'd like to meet these 42% .... this guy's a train wreck, a shyster, and a crook. I guess, as usual, 42% of the people aren't paying attention.

    July 23, 2014 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  19. carlwesleyclark

    Obama's poll numbers 'holding steady'? Better pull out your abacus again.

    July 23, 2014 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  20. Veritas

    The reasons they are steady (and low) is because this is not based on some passing event, but on almost 6 years of experience with him and his character and competence. And the overwhelming majority of all Americans have decided that he is a failed President. Period. Passing events won't change that. He's done.

    July 23, 2014 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  21. lex

    So Obama can fool 42% of the people all of the time. Has incompetence become the new s tandard for governing?

    July 23, 2014 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  22. Charlie

    42% isn't bad. Last I noticed Congress was sitting at 21% and the GOP was at 11%. The American people are upset with how our country is being managed and it's obvious where the fault lies.

    July 23, 2014 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  23. carlwesleyclark

    Obama's poll numbers 'holding steady'? You need to pull out the abacus again, and stop allowing Valerie Jarrett to make editorial changes to articles. Obama is coming down FAST, and he's miles BELOW you.

    July 23, 2014 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  24. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Rogers also said Republicans would demand the border spending be offset with budget cuts elsewhere, something Democrats will likely oppose."

    Either Republicans want a immigration solution or they don't. There is very little left in the budget to "offset" emergency expenditures elsewhere; and while talking out of both sides of their mouths has worked for nearly 6 years now, one would think the their own party supporters would finally after all these years wake up and demand action. At this point, Rick Perry is willing to spend 12 million dollars a day of Texas revenue to place National Guard members on the border to do nothing more than look across into wherever abyss they see while standing in a formation a thousand or so miles long.

    And our United States Congress? Are readying themselves to high five their August recess vacation. All the while lamenting their own uselessness.

    "Oh, dear ... it's going to be sooooo expensive".

    "Oh, dear ... oh, dear ... why on MY vacation?"

    "Oh, dear ... whatever are we to do".

    Hey .... here's a thought ... eh, CNN? Lets blame Obama. Yeah. It's all Obama's fault.

    July 23, 2014 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  25. Just for one day....

    Yeah, but in an ironic twist 75 % of Republicans are happy with their Obama Care (4 that i know of directly) and 85 % of Dems are enjoying it .... and the Fed appeals decison yesterday that was broadside by the 4th District? Sorry Koch Brothers, it will never be upheld by the Supreme Court...no way that two Right Wing activist judges will shut down the ACA on "one line in 1500 pages"...

    Chevron Deference:

    One of the most important principals in administrative law, established by the Supreme Court in Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984). The case raised the issue of how courts should treat agency interpretations of statutes that mandated that agency to take some action. The Supreme Court held that courts should defer to agency interpretations of such statutes unless they are unreasonable.

    Good Luck killing healthcare for everyone. Not just the special people....

    July 23, 2014 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
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