Poll: Obama at 53 percent approval after week of controversies

A new poll shows a majority approving of President Obama's job performance after a week where his administration faced a tough trio of controversies.

A CNN/ORC poll released Sunday morning shows 53 percent approve of the president, with 45 percent disapproving. Obama held a 51 percent approval in the last CNN poll conducted in early April.

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“An approval rating that has not dropped and remains over 50 [percent] will probably be taken as good news by Democrats after the events of the last week,” said CNN polling director Keating Holland, announcing the poll findings.

Seventy-one percent said that the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative political groups seeking tax exempt status for higher scrutiny was unacceptable, with 26 percent finding those actions acceptable.

The IRS actions brought criticism from the White House and both parties. Obama called the actions “outrageous,” and accepted the resignation of Steven Miller, the acting director of the agency, last week. 

Lawmakers have begun hearings and Republicans have vowed to discover if officials at the White House knew about the scandal, despite claims from Obama that he didn’t “know anything” until reading news reports of the matter. 

The poll, though, finds support for the president, with 61 percent saying that his statements on the scandal have been accurate, with 35 percent disagreeing with his characterization of the IRS actions.

But there is also support for the GOP handling of the IRS matter, with 54 percent saying congressional Republicans are reacting appropriately and 42 percent saying they are overreacting.

Fifty-five percent believe the nation’s tax agency acted on its own, with 37 percent saying they believe the administration ordered the IRS to target Tea Party groups.

But the poll finds less support for the administration’s handling of the Benghazi Consulate attack, with 42 percent satisfied with the White House. Fifty-three percent say they are dissatisfied.

GOP lawmakers have held hearings on whether the administration deployed all security measures possible to protect the mission, which was attacked last September. Four Americans died, including Ambassador Chris Stevens and in the initial aftermath, the administration incorrectly blamed the terrorist attack on a spontaneous mob. 

The White House has sought to tamp down the controversy by releasing a number of emails detailing the drafting of their talking points. 

Republicans have questioned if the White House sought to downplay the terrorist attack in the run up to the presidential election, but Democrats say the hearings are an attempt to weaken the president and embarrass then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ahead of a possible 2016 run.

Half of those surveyed in the CNN/ORC poll believe the talking points reflect what the administration believed at the time, with 44 percent believing there was an attempt to mislead the public.

Americans also believe that the government could have done more to prevent the attacks by a 59 to 36 split.  

Fifty-nine percent believe Republicans in Congress are reacting appropriately to Benghazi, with 37 percent saying they are overreacting. 

Respondents also criticized the Justice Department’s seizure of phone records for Associated Press reporters, with a majority, 52 percent, calling it unacceptable to 43 percent acceptable. 

The poll was conducted from May 17-18 and has a 3-point margin of error.