President Barack Obama’s job approval rating has taken a huge hit in the wake of the scandals surrounding the White House, a new poll has found.
Fewer than half the registered voters surveyed now believe Obama is “honest and trustworthy,” according to the poll conducted by Quinnipiac University. That figure had stood at 58 percent the last time the question was asked in September 2011. Now it is at 49 percent.
And it is the scandal involving the Internal Revenue Service that is hitting Obama hardest, the survey found. The voters, who were surveyed between Wednesday last week and Tuesday of this week, believe that controversy is more worrying than those surrounding the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, or the seizure of phone records from journalists.
According to the Connecticut university’s survey, more people now view the president negatively than positively. Slightly under half — 49 percent — say they have a negative view of Obama, while 45 percent have a positive view.
Just one month ago, before news of the IRS controversy broke, the president’s job approval rating was more positive than negative, at 48 to 45 percent.
When it comes to the individual controversies swirling around the Obama administration, 44 percent of voters see the IRS prying into conservative groups as the most important, while 24 percent say they are most concerned about the administration’s handling of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, and 15 percent say the records seizure at news organizations is most important.
Many voters believe criticism of the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack as “just politics,” the survey shows with 43 percent describing it that way
Meanwhile, more than three out of four voters — 76 percent — believe a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate the IRS scandal. That figure includes 63 percent of Democrats, 88 percent of Republicans, and 78 percent of independent voters.
“There is overwhelming bipartisan support for a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac’s Polling Institute.
“Voters apparently don’t like the idea of Attorney General Eric Holder investigating the matter himself, perhaps because they don’t exactly think highly of him,” Brown said. Holder got a negative 39 percent job approval rating, compared to 23 percent who approved of the way he is doing his job.
But the poll also shows that almost three-quarters of voters, or 73 percent, believe that dealing with the economy and unemployment is a higher priority than investigating these three issues. Only 22 percent disagree.
But those who were surveyed are also optimistic that the economy is finally improving.
“The fact that voters say, 34–25 percent, that the economy is getting better also may be a reason the president’s job approval numbers have not dropped further,” said Brown.
Other points from the poll include:
• Political parties and groups are generally held in disdain. Voters have an unfavorable view of both the main parties and the tea party. The Republican Party fares worse, with an unfavorable rating of 50 percent, compared to 35 percent who rate it favorably. The same is said of the Democrats by 47 percent who rate their party favorably, and 42 percent unfavorably; and the tea party by 38-28 percent.
• A minuscule 3 percent of voters surveyed says they trust the federal government to do the right thing all the time. Twelve percent says they trust the feds most of the time, 47 percent say some of the time, and 36 percent say hardly ever.
• A congressional election today would be evenly split, with 38 percent saying they would vote for a Republican to sit in the House of Representatives and the same number saying they would vote Democrat.
A total of 1,419 registered voters were polled for the survey, with a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points, according to Quinnipiac.