A look at the handful of polls taken directly before and after the Bin Laden killing show anywhere from a zero to six point increase in President Obama’s approval rating, a surprisingly negligible rise that probably reflects Americans’ understanding that the hunt for Bin Laden was long and credit for his killing is broad.
Obama is forced to share in the glory, even though he acted with uncharacteristic nerve and decisiveness in giving the go ahead to the risky operation. It has to be frustrating for White House strategists: Obama doesn’t get all the credit for the success. But he would have gotten all the credit if the raid failed.
Obama is trying to capitalize on his success by subtly associating himself with the operation in the public’s mind, staging a series of events this week related to the killing. So it’s possible he may get more of a bump as time goes on. On the other hand, if an average of about three points is all the president could garner in the euphoric aftermath of the raid, there’s probably not much more approval to be milked down the road.
Gallup and Quinnipiac both recorded six point increases for the president in the days right after the killing, each tallying a rise from 46 percent to 52 percent. Gallup’s polling suggests the boomlet has leveled off, with data released yesterday actually showing a one point decline to 51 percent. According to Gallup:
The six-percentage-point increase in Obama’s approval rating is fairly typical for a rally event . . . When the U.S. in December 2003 found and captured another “high-value target” — former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein — George W. Bush’s approval rating rose seven points.
But CNN/Opinion Research polls conducted Monday and in the days prior to the announcement of the attack show Obama’s approval rating rising from 51 to 52 percent, well within the margin of error. Newsweek/Daily Beast polls taken before and after show no change in Obama’s 49 percent approval rating.
Polling by Rasmussen shows Obama’s approval rate steady despite the attack, continuing to hover the in the range of 48-50 percent.
Other new polls that show a larger boost for Obama – like a New York Times poll showing an 11 percent increase – compare new results to data collected a couple of weeks ago, and probably reflect something daily polls show more clearly – that Obama’s ratings were rising slightly before the Bin Laden hit.
The longer term issue is whether the Bin Laden success will begin to make the president seem more competent on the foreign policy front, and in this way boost his electability. Given the huge challenges confronting the United States, this blip in the polls does not seem likely to create a concrete platform for Obama’s political rebirth.