Politics and Public Opinion, Polls

What you may have missed in the polls: Recent controversies, abolishing the IRS

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Obama: Weathering the Storm?: In the new ABC/Washington Post poll, 51% approved of the job Obama was doing as president, virtually identical to his mid-April and early March approval ratings of 50%. The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll also showed stability in the President’s standing. In addition, in the CNN/ORC poll, the President’s ratings have not changed since late April on being honest and trustworthy (59% in late April, 58% today), on not being a typical politician (55% and 54%, respectively), and on being likable (79% in September 2011, 79% today).  His ratings are up in the new poll on being a strong and decisive leader (52% in January 2012, 58% today).  Fox News’ poll of registered voters has the President’s approval rating at 45%, down barely from 47% last month. His disapproval ticked up to 51%. In the poll, 49% said he was honest and trustworthy, and 48% said he was not.

In the ABC/Post poll, more people said the administration is trying to cover up the facts about Benghazi (55%) than honestly disclosing what it knows (33%). As for the IRS targeting, people split 42% honestly disclosing, and 45% covering up. In the Fox poll, 24% said the White House knew nothing about the IRS probes, 37% felt they knew but didn’t initiate the policy, and 29% said the White House intentionally had the IRS target conservative political groups.

Obama honest and trustworthy

Attention to the controversies: The Pew Research Center points out that 25% are following the IRS targeting of conservative groups very closely, 25% the Benghazi investigation, and 16% the Department of Justice subpoenas of AP phone records. At least in one respect these controversies are like past ones. Partisans of the party out of power are paying more (albeit still limited) attention.


GOP brand: We don’t know at this point how the recent controversies will affect Democrats and Republicans. One thing is known. The Republican brand is still badly damaged. In the new CNN/ORC poll, 52% had a favorable view of the Democratic Party (43% unfavorable). Just 35% had a favorable view of the GOP, with 59% having a negative impression.

D and R favorable

IRS power: In the late 1990s, Congress held hearings on the performance of the IRS that led to the passage of the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998.  Several pollsters asked questions at that time about whether the IRS used its powers responsibly. In one question from a Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll, 62% said the agency abused its powers, while 34% said it used its powers responsibly.  In another, more than two-thirds (68%) said the agency had more power than it needed.  An NBC/Wall Street Journal question found that 70% thought IRS unethical behavior occurred fairly regularly, while 19% said that recent incidents had been isolated ones.

Similar questions haven’t been asked in recent years.  A few pollsters, however, have asked about abolishing the IRS.  The latest, from a 2010 CNN/ORC poll found that 26% wanted to abolish the agency. Confidence in the IRS in the new Fox poll stands at 42%, down from 62% in 2003.


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