Washington (CNN) - Bounce or no bounce?
National polls conducted since President Barack Obama's announcement Sunday night that Osama bin Laden had been killed don't agree on whether the president's poll numbers spiked due to the death of the man behind the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Two polls conducted immediately before and immediately after bin Laden's death show little or no bounce, while a third done at the same time indicates that Obama's overall approval rating rose 11 points in the wake of Sunday night's dramatic announcement. A fourth poll done after bin Laden's death also suggests a rise in Obama's overall approval rating, but only in comparison to a survey conducted as far back as March.
Would a bounce in Obama's approval rating affect the 2012 election? Most political observers doubt that any current change in Obama's poll numbers would last that long, and approval ratings are rarely good indicators of what will happen in an election still a year and a half away. Many also assume that, barring an unknown event, the economy rather than terrorism or national security will be the issue that dominates the presidential campaign next year.
One of the surveys, from Newsweek/Daily Beast, indicates no bounce at all, with the president's approval rating at 48 percent in a poll conducted Friday and Saturday, and remaining the same in a separate poll conducted Monday and Tuesday.
Fifty-two percent of people interviewed in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey conducted Monday say they approve of how Obama's handling his duties as president, a one-point difference from a poll conducted Friday through Sunday, before the president's announcement that the founder and leader of the al Qaeda terrorist network was shot and killed by U.S. forces during a raid in Pakistan. The 52 percent approval rating is up four points from Obama's 48 percent approval rating in early April in CNN polling.
But one other survey taken immediately before and immediately after bin Laden's death does indicate a large bounce.
A CBS/New York Times poll conducted Monday and Tuesday puts the president's approval rating at 57 percent, up 11 points from a separate survey conducted Thursday through Sunday.
And a Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll conducted Monday indicated Obama's approval rating at 56 percent. The Pew poll showed a gain of nine points from their last survey, but that was conducted from March 30 to April 3 and may reflect changes due to events that occurred throughout the month of April as well as due to bin Laden's death.
Although the polls appear to disagree on Obama's overall approval rating, they get similar figures on specific questions about his handling of terrorism, Afghanistan, and the economy - changes that have a better chance of lasting into 2012 and affecting the presidential campaign.
The CNN poll indicates the president receiving a boost on handling terrorism, with 67 percent saying they approve of how Obama's handling the issue, up seven points from January. And his approval rating on handling the situation in Afghanistan now stands at 58 percent, also up seven points.
"While President Obama's rating on terrorism and on how he's handling of Afghanistan each went up seven points, his approval rating on the economy and the deficit are down three points in that same time span," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Remember that the economy is still the most important issue. When CNN last asked Americans to name their top issue last year, 52 percent said the economy was most important and only four percent chose terrorism, putting in seventh on the list."
The other polls have similar findings: A jump in Obama's numbers on terrorism, national security and the war in Afghanistan, but no rise on the economy. The CBS/New York Times poll puts the president's approval rating on the economy at 34 percent, their lowest number on that indicator since Obama took over in the White House in January of 2009.
Historically, how long do bounces last?
President George W. Bush saw his approval rating jump eight points, from 55 percent to 63 percent, in the days after his December 2003 announcement that Saddam Hussein had been captured in Iraq.
"But the bounce in his approval ratings was short-lived," says Holland. "While President Bush's numbers stayed in the mid 60's through January 2004, it was down to around 50 percent by February, as the presidential campaign got under way."
Holland also notes that the gains Bush's father made immediately after the Persian Gulf War in 1991 also petered out just as a presidential campaign began.
As time passes, barring another incident, this current focus on national security and foreign affairs will most likely disappear, and the spotlight should return to the economy, jobs, gas prices, the deficit, and the budget battles.
"Any time there is a moment for America, it's a moment for the president. He runs the place. But the question is: What's the staying power of the moment," asks CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, the anchor of CNN's State of the Union.
"I think the staying power of the moment could get overridden by what ever moments are to come between now and November of 2012. My feeling right now is that if unemployment remains high and the economy still feels sluggish to people, if their home values remain in the basement, the totality of their lives will override this moment."
Republican strategist and CNN contributor Alex Castellanos agrees: "This will certainly be a peak for President Obama. But you know what happens after the peak, the fall. After this peak will come the economy."
"Now that we've put a period at the end of a very long sentence, we move on to the next sentence, and that is the economy," adds Castellanos, who was a top media adviser to the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign and to Romney's 2008 bid for the GOP presidential nomination.