You would think that after suffering the bad press of three scandals President Barack Obama’s approval rating would have taken at least a minor hit. It has not. And there might be a simple reason for this: Although the Obama administration was hit hard last week as the Benghazi consulate attacks of September, the IRS’ targeting of tea party groups, and the requisition of AP reporters’ phone records all pushed to the fore in national headlines, the American people are only partially listening.
According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released May 19, President Obama’s approval rating stands at 53 percent. Earlier in May, Gallup posted the rating as 51 percent. In Gallup’s daily tracking for May 20, the president polled a 49 percent, up a percentage point from the day before.
So what gives? How is it that an administration can be rocked with three major scandals like a tsunami cresting, with Republicans calling for investigatory hearings across the board and even impeachment, and still appear relatively unfazed from the public’s perspective?
Ever hear of “crying wolf?” In what is commonly referred to as the “Cry Wolf Syndrome,” responders to the call of imminent danger or areas of concern reach a certain point. In short, there are ever-diminishing returns when an alarm is raised constantly without there being an apparent reason for the alarm to be sounded. This works in the political arena as well as in other areas of practical application. Like the boy that cried wolf, Republicans have cried foul against the Obama administration since his first inauguration, from blaming the president for the unemployment numbers resulting from an economic collapse that occurred in a prior presidency to negligence with the response to the attacks on the Benghazi consulate.
And like the villagers that eventually stopped responding to the shepherd boy’s cries for help (much to the detriment of the herd of sheep as it would turn out), Americans, for the most part, have stopped listening to Republican cries that the Obama administration is out to destroy America.
A case in point: A Gallup poll released in mid-May noted that although most Americans agreed that the matters should be investigated, the actual number of people following the scandals of Benghazi and the IRS was below the historical national average of people following scandals. Not that they are not following the scandals, just not as closely as they have in the past.
And in the CNN/ORC poll, the number of people now believing the Benghazi attacks could have been prevented has increased, which only indicates that most people have no concept of how terrorism actually works. This number also follows days of hammering by the GOP about emails that indicated the administration might have done more or something different than what was done when four Americans were killed. The fact that these emails were cherry-picked and altered for the benefit of the GOP’s attacks on the president and his administration has only just come to light and will likely become an ameliorating factor. Also, the GOP’s criticism loses its bite when coupled with the fact they’ve known about all the emails (and not just the ones that make the administration look bad) since at least October but failed to mention them, leading most to question the party’s motives. And then there are the doctored emails, where the Republican versions have been altered to include things like references to al-Qaeda not in the original emails. And now there is Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a congressman very familiar with lying, saying that he doesn’t know if there was a cover-up.
All the lying doesn’t help the Republican cause, either.
The other two scandals are relatively fresh but president Obama seemed to somewhat diffuse both with his responses to them. Firing IRS chief Steve Miller and noting his outrage at the targeting of tea party groups by the IRS seems to have mollified everyone except the tea party, which was looking for any reason to try to return to their glory days of the 2010 Red Wave, and a few Republicans. As for the AP scandal, Obama’s statement saying he wouldn’t apologize for securing the reporters’ phone records when it came to matters of national security.
And through it all, various members of the GOP have called for Obama’s impeachment, cried cover-up, conspiracy, and negligence. All allegations, accusations, and demands heard before, only with altered details, situations and incidents.
So why are President Obama’s ratings remaining steady (but showing a partisan divide) when it comes to his approval ratings, where Democrats and Independents are remaining supportive even in the midst of an onslaught of scandals? After four years of hearing what a terrible president Obama has been, Americans have heard the cry of “wolf!” too many times to take the Republicans at their word. The surveys show that the people find the scandals serious matters. They’re just not willing to pillory the president over any of them (without proper investigations) as a response to what has been historically proven to be the GOP’s all-too-often unsubstantiated and unwarranted overreactions to them.