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Obama approval rating slides: Scandals taking toll?

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Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

(Read caption) President Obama waves as he boards Air Force One before his departure from O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Thursday. Political controversy appears to be dragging down Obama's approval rating, a new poll indicates.

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Is political controversy dragging down President Obama’s approval rating? That’s what the results of a new Quinnipiac University poll appear to indicate.

The survey finds Mr. Obama’s job performance numbers underwater, with 45 percent approving of his presidential actions and 49 percent disapproving. That represents a reversal from a May 1 Quinnipiac survey, when 48 percent of respondents approved of Obama’s performance and 45 percent disapproved.

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Obama’s standing with self-identified Republicans and Democrats stayed pretty much the same. The difference in the latest poll was independents, who gave the president a negative 37 percent to 57 percent rating, compared with a negative 42 percent to 48 percent rating on May 1.

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This slide occurs at a time when the White House has been dogged by criticism about its actions in the wake of last September’s fatal attacks on a US building in Benghazi, Libya, the apparent targeting of conservative nonprofit groups by the IRS, and the Justice Department’s surreptitious investigation of journalists’ communications.

In the Quinnipiac survey, a plurality of voters dismissed the Libya investigation as “just politics.” They appeared to take the IRS matter much more seriously, however. By a margin of 76 percent to 17 percent, respondents said a special prosecutor should investigate the IRS charges.

“There is overwhelming bipartisan support for a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute, in a press release.

It’s important to note, however, that this is just one poll. The RealClearPolitics rolling average of major polls still has Obama’s rating above water (barely), with 48.7 percent approving of his actions and 48 percent approving.

Some other individual surveys that asked questions over the same days as Quinnipiac found much different results. Gallup’s latest rolling job approval rating, which includes responses collected up until May 28, has a 50 percent positive score for the president, with 43 percent disapproving of his job performance.

That’s not any different from the beginning of the month. On May 1, Gallup reported an identical 50 percent to 43 percent Obama job-performance split.

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The bottom line is that it still may be too early to tell if current political controversies will be a continued drag on Obama’s polls. Overall, the RealClearPolitics average has bounced around over the past month, showing no clear trend of either down or up.