What scandals? At least when it comes to his approval rating, U.S. President Barack Obama’s numbers haven’t taken a dip from the Internal Revenue Service, Associated Press and Benghazi controversies engulfing his administration, according to a new CNN poll released Sunday.
Obama has seen his approval rating remain steady, with 53 percent of those polled Friday and Saturday approving of the president’s job and 45 percent disapproving of the way the commander in chief is handling his duties. Two percent had no opinion.
The poll questioned 923 adult Americans and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The political makeup of the respondents was 33 percent Democrat, 24 percent Republican and 43 percent independent.
The president’s approval rating increased slightly from the last CNN/ORC poll, taken April 5-7, but not enough to be statistically significant. At that time, his approval rating stood at 51 percent while 47 percent disapproved of how Obama handled his job. Three percent had no opinion.
Last week was a tumultuous one at the White House, as the president dealt with criticism of an administration in disarray over the AP, IRS and Benghazi scandals. Some accused the president of being aloof and criticized him about his leadership style, saying he should be more involved in what goes on in agencies he’s supposed to oversee. Others, mostly Republicans, were skeptical about how much Obama knows about the controversies.
An overwhelming majority of Americans polled by CNN said they believed all three scandals were “important” issues facing the nation, but they chose not to punish Obama when it came to his approval rating.
On the IRS scandal, in which the agency targeted tea party and conservative groups for increased scrutiny of their applications to be granted tax-exempt status, 55 percent of those polled said the issue was “very important,” while 30 percent said the matter was “somewhat important."
Obama strongly criticized the IRS after the scandal came to light last week, calling for and receiving the resignation of the agency’s head, Steven Miller. The president said he first learned of the scandal on May 10, when the issue was leaked to the press.
Was the president telling the truth about when he learned of the IRS scandal? According to those polled, a little more than 61 percent said they believed Obama’s public statements on the IRS controversy were either “completely” or “mostly” true.
A slight majority of respondents – 51 percent – said they believed the IRS acted on its own and 37 percent said they thought the White House ordered the targeting of tea party groups.
On the Benghazi scandal, the poll showed a slight uptick in those who believed the Obama administration intentionally misled Americans about what caused the attack on the American consulate that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.
Forty-four percent of respondents said the inaccurate statements made by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice – that the attacks were spurred by spontaneous protests and weren't a well-planned terrorist mission – were “an attempt by the Obama administration to intentionally mislead the American public about the attack,” the poll showed. When that question was asked in December 2012, 40 percent of respondents agreed with that assessment.
Half of those polled said Rice’s statements reflected what the administration knew at the time, down from 56 percent in December 2012.
Either way, a high percentage of those polled believed the Benghazi scandal isn't a trivial matter. Nearly 85 percent of respondents said the controversy is either “very” or “somewhat” important.
The AP scandal, in which the U.S. Justice Department obtained phone records from 100 AP journalists in an investigation to determine who leaked sensitive information used for a 2012 story on a thwarted terrorist attack, was seen as the most serious among those polled.
The story, about a Yemen-based terror plot foiled by the CIA that planned on putting bombs on U.S.-bound aircraft, was written to show how the Obama administration was misleading the public. The plot had been planned for the two-year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden, yet the White House was saying there were no known plots targeting the U.S. in retribution for killing bin Laden.
Of those polled, 53 percent said the secret obtaining of AP phone records was “very important,” while 34 percent said the controversy was “somewhat important.”