News / USA

Obama Gets Poll Boost, but Experts Wonder for How Long

U.S. President Barack Obama poses with officers of the First Precinct police station in lower Manhattan during a visit to the World Trade Center site in New York, May 5, 2011.
U.S. President Barack Obama poses with officers of the First Precinct police station in lower Manhattan during a visit to the World Trade Center site in New York, May 5, 2011.

New polls show President Barack Obama is getting a boost in public approval following the commando raid last Sunday that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Boost, but how long?

Political experts are already debating how long the boost will last and how much it will help Obama in his re-election campaign next year. 

It was without a doubt one of the most dramatic moments in Barack Obama’s presidency.

"Tonight I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida," announced Obama.

The announcement of Osama bin Laden’s demise set off demonstrations of national pride outside the White House, near Ground Zero in New York and elsewhere around the country.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, accompanied by fellow Republican leaders, makes a statement on Capitol in Washington, Monday, May 2, 2011, about the operation that killed Osama bin Laden
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, accompanied by fellow Republican leaders, makes a statement on Capitol in Washington, Monday, May 2, 2011, about the operation that killed Osama bin Laden

Republicans joined Democrats in praising the president’s decision to go after bin Laden, including some of Obama’s harshest critics in the past.

"Well, I think the administration clearly deserves credit for the success of the operation and from what I can tell, it looks to me like, you know, we all owe him the same sense of satisfaction that I am sure they feel," said former Vice President Dick Cheney, who spoke to ABC News.

There is little disagreement among political analysts that the bin Laden raid will help President Obama bolster his domestic support, at least in the short term, says Washington-based expert Rhodes Cook.

"It kind of hits the reset button for President Obama," said Cook. "Kind of like after the [November midterm congressional] election when he took charge during that post-election session of Congress and got a lot of legislation through. People took a different and more positive view of him."

Polls

Obama’s approval rating has jumped nine points to 56 percent in the latest Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll , and rose six points to 52 percent in the latest survey by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.

But Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown tells VOA that it remains unclear what kind of impact the bin Laden killing will have on the president’s effort to win a second term next year.

"The big question for Mr. Obama in terms of his re-election is how big the bump is and how long it lasts, and that is not clear and will not be for a while," he said.

Economy

One of the reasons for that is that most Americans have been more focused on economic concerns of late than security, says Georgetown University expert Stephen Wayne.

"At this moment, terrorism is not the major issue in the United States," said Wayne. "The major issue is the economy and the government budget. I think Obama will be helped, but not in a tremendous way by the getting of bin Laden."

A crowd of mostly young Americans have gathered in front of the White House after President Obama's announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden, at 2:00am on Monday, May 02, 2011
A crowd of mostly young Americans have gathered in front of the White House after President Obama's announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden, at 2:00am on Monday, May 02, 2011

Pollster Peter Brown says just because Americans feel better in the wake of bin Laden’s demise, it does not mean that those positive feelings will be transferred to the president’s handling of the economy.

"The most important question in terms of his political prospects is not whether this will help his national security credentials," said Brown. "Obviously it will. The question is will it make people more favorable towards his handling of the economy, the budget deficit and those domestic issues."

Bush experience

That was a lesson that former President George H. W. Bush learned the hard way back in 1992 when he was defeated by Democrat Bill Clinton despite having huge public-approval ratings the year before because of his leadership in the Persian Gulf War.

"His [President George H. W. Bush] poll numbers were at 90 percent, and obviously Obama is not there," said Matt Dallek, who teaches U.S. politics at the University of California Washington Center. "But then a year and a half later the economy hurt George H. W. Bush so badly that he lost re-election."

The new polls show little change in the generally negative view Americans have of the president’s handling of the national economy. The Washington Post-Pew poll showed only 40 percent had a positive view of Obama’s economic performance, and that number was even lower at 38 percent in the Quinnipiac poll.

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