Speaking at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics on Feb. 16, former top Obama strategist David Axelrod responded to a question about the Obama administration's "revolving door, " saying that the "ethical strictures" in place have prevented any major scandals. (Univ. of Chicago Institute of Politics via YouTube)

Former top Obama adviser David Axelrod said Monday that the Obama administration hasn't had a "major scandal" in its six years. It's a characterization many Republicans undoubtedly take issue with.

But just how big does a scandal have to be to be considered "major?" One way is to look at how various controversies have affected Obama's image. And, by that definition, no scandal really registers.

Below, I tracked Obama's Gallup job approval rating in the weeks after five major controversies first became news to see whether they had any appreciable effect.

 

There's no clear correlation between these scandals and Obama's approval rating. He actually became slightly more popular after Fast and Furious became public, and although his disapproval rating ticked up following the attack on Benghazi and the ensuing controversy over the administration's faulty talking points, it never overtook the percentage who viewed his job favorably.

It could be that scandals don't have a lot to do with how Americans rate the president. Here's Obama's approval rating in the weeks after it was reported that some veterans died as a result of not receiving timely care at Veterans Affairs hospitals. It was a very significant scandal, to be sure, but perhaps not one that people laid directly at Obama's doorstep.

 

Obama's approval dropped and his disapproval rose immediately following the news. But even though nearly six in 10 Americans didn't approve of Obama's handling of the VA scandal, according to a June CNN/ORC poll, it didn't affect his overall approval rating. In other words, how the public feels about Obama is a lot more complicated than a single controversy.

The number of "major scandals" Obama has had depends on whom you ask, but if you define it as a scandal that overtakes how Americans judge the job he's doing above any other measure, Axelrod's right.