Polls: Bounce, Bump, or nothing at all?
May 4th, 2011
01:52 PM ET
4 years ago

Polls: Bounce, Bump, or nothing at all?

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.


Filed under: Osama bin Laden • Polls • President Obama
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Sgt Schultz

    Obama from the moment he took office ordered the CIA to make this their #1 priority. Obama also executed the operation flawlessly and decided to use the best possible option, rather than Bush-style carpet bombing and killing many innocent civiliians in the process.

    Just based on this victory alone...Obama should be automatically re-elected in 2012. I would even like to see the laws changed to allow him to serve beyond 2 terms...as America desperately needs a reformer in chief and help fix the massive corruption in Congress and our government.

    May 4, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  2. david

    President did a good job at geting osama bin ladden now i want to see the pic of his death, These are my thoughts.

    May 4, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  3. vic , nashville ,tn

    Pundits comparing the polls with Bush 1 (1991)

    Let me say something Obama Got Osama huge difference

    We seen Osama as Hitler #2

    May 4, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  4. S. In California - Obama 2012

    GDT wrote:

    The comments on this board are a perfect example of why so much of the country dislikes Obama. Couldn't this have been an opportunity to praise the Bush Admin for all of their counter-terrorism efforts during a very difficult period after 9/11? Do Liberals really not understand that the actions over the weekend were a culmination of 10 years of work by the Bush and Obama administrations and more importantly by the military and intelligence services? Do you really believe that Obama is a magician and made all of this happen on his own? Come on.....grow up and get real.

    Honey you are real sick. The whole world has been watching Bush's comments on OBL. I saw it for the first time last night while watching The Last Word on MSNBC. The way he stood there and smirked and even partially laughed while our brave men and women were dying in his selfish war was disgusting! It made me sick to my stomach. If this is YOUR idea of class you are even lower than he is. The only reason he is not attending is he's too embarassed. End of story. I think even he realizes it was in BAD taste to come off in that manner. Just because YOU don't like our president don't assume the country does not. It took a lot of guts and confidence to do what our president did and for that I commend him. I know it hurts you to see him get the credit he so deserves but it was YOUR president (Bush) who chose to act foolishly when such serious subject matter (OBL) was presented. Sit back, get over your jealousy and take pride we have a president in the WH now whose focused on the American people and no he is not a magician just a man with class and common sense.

    May 4, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  5. PalmReader

    Corporate funded polls on Obama have been up and down for the past 3 years ... (depending on Corporate America's stance on each issue) and with no purposeful goal but to further the continual division within America. Keeps us less focused on all the little things such as jobs, the economy, getting screwed by big oil, and Wall Street. Perhaps if the majority of Americans weren't so easily distracted by polls, a great deal might actually be accomplished within Congress - at whom we should all be directing our attention to. Congress is, after all, responsible for setting policies ... or not, as is the case of this particular Congress.

    May 4, 2011 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC

    Ever see that commercial with the NFL coach reacting to a question about "playoffs?"
    Polls? Polls? You kiddin' me? Polls?

    What about the budget? What about the credit limit? What about jobs?
    What about energy prices and the inflation it will cause?

    May 4, 2011 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  7. Ms. M

    I believe that if everyone would put their personal feelings aside and work to solve America's domestic issues, our future will be bright!! However, because of the politics and the desire for those individuals who will never accept President Obama as our leader, it will continue to be sabatoge and business as usual in America. Sadly, our struggles continue to come in second, third, fourth... place just so elected offiicials can get re-elected. One serious solution to consider is term limits. I would love to see term limits put in place so that Congressional leaders are only given 3 terms to make their mark not make their living from us for doing nothing more than dividing the country. Why not push for term limits?

    May 4, 2011 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  8. Realistic

    This is not about a bump in the polls but its about something else that will last longer, confidence in president Obamas ability to make the tough decision when it comes to national security. having the guts to send in navy seals into another country to conduct special military operations to capture and kill Bin Laden shows bravado. This operation could of gone south(remember carter?) and his tenure as president would of surely ended that night. But instead, the operation succeeded and Bin laden is dead and this alone will shut the republicans battle cry of president Obama being weak on national security and or a dilther when it comes to making the "REAL TOUGH CHOICES". Imagine going into pakistan where Bin Laden compound is layed in between military elite places of the pakistan army, conducting a night operation to kill bin laden, not telling the(pakis) and killing Bin laden and others and taking the body and leaving all in 40 min. This settle all debates about presidents Obamas "national security credentials". This is not about a bump in the polls but a long lasting confidence boost when it comes to this issue.

    May 4, 2011 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  9. Edward

    Donald Rumsfield has stated that the terrorists that provided information on the courier did not undergo any harsh interrogation techniques and was not tortured. In any case, historically when people look back on this moment it will be noted that Obama brought bin laden to justice and it will be viewed as one of he high points of his presidency.

    May 4, 2011 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  10. Mercker

    The only way the dems will ever get respect from the majority, is to get back to what the ignorant want. A rich white guy with a southern accent (Clinton, Carter). He has to sound country dumb (so they can relate to him) and talk tough (because the ignorant people are all insecure at some level).

    May 4, 2011 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  11. obama victim

    gas is $4..u8nemployment is 8.8% housing prices are crashing....inflation is rising...why would anyone vore for this guy??

    May 4, 2011 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  12. Nelson Colorado Springs Co.

    Job well done Mr President Obama, the good thing you didn't tell anybody because Osama bin Laden could have gotten away again like Bora Bora. What a President

    May 4, 2011 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  13. The Day of Financial Reckoning is HERE - The Great Democrat Welfare Society Ends

    Of course he'll get a small bounce. At least until the next time people go to buy food or gasoline.

    May 4, 2011 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  14. ja

    who do the polls include, just iowa or rhode island,

    May 4, 2011 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  15. Joan

    Disagree. It all depends on how the polls are spun by the media. Most reasonable people who have watched Pres. Obama over the last two years know he "can chew gum and walk at the same time". He is definitely one of the most intelligent, charismatic, caring and capable presidents that the US has had in a long time. Of course Republican pundits will spin this last remarkable accomplishment so that Bush gets credit for it even though he turned his back on the effort to get Bin Laden and focussed on oil in Iraq instead. In doing so he almost bankrupt your country both financially and morally. Most reasonable people see through their spin and take it with a grain of salt. Instead of petty criticisms, why doesn't the media list all of the accomplishments that this administration has done for the middle class and how America's image has improved where it counts in the world. Honestly, since American news coverage is international, most people can't understand how shallow and petty the coverage is and how disrespectful it is of your President.. You actually don't deserve him and if he gets voted out in 2012 a huge majority of the world will just sigh and think you have blown it again. Then you can go back to your ways of alienating most of the world, picking fights where not needed, catering to big business and banks, concentrating on giving perks to the wealthy and probably bringing your country back into a recession. Sorry but your international image during the last administration was that of invaders, occupiers and bullies. Go for it but don't think the world won't be watching and will have absolutely no patience with your mistakes the second time around. The promises of civility and honesty after Sen. Giffords shooting have been totally forgotten lately and the next year and a half before the next election will be scrutinized like never before.

    May 4, 2011 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  16. Bob in PA

    The only poll bounce would be for Seal Team 6.
    Everyone knows BHO's record and what he stands for.

    May 4, 2011 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  17. AK

    He will have my Support, Money, Loyality and of course my VOTE!

    May 4, 2011 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  18. Me

    I see a man for all seasons. Good economy or bad, terrorism or not, he'll have my vote next year. Anyone can lead in good times. Few can during bad.

    May 4, 2011 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  19. Indy

    The one person that could not care less is Obama, the media is taking this and polling every single question they can come up with and within hours the media was asking if this sealed four more years for Obama and it is enough to make a person sick. Do you really think Obama gives a hoot if this helped or hindered his approval ratings ? All you have to do is look at how it all went down and that is more then enough proof of two things which are Osama is dead and Obama did not care about any polls as he did what was right for the world. Find a new news story and stop the insanity of polling and guessing every single action of this event. Osama is dead and Obama did a great job along with the military, end of story

    May 4, 2011 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  20. gt

    ask president bush... its only in the now.... 3 ,6 1,2 months things change.....the one in nov. 2012 is what will count... how about the folks in alabama ... sure have been left out of the news... lets not forget our own....

    May 4, 2011 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  21. Tony

    You know what I love about polls. If you word the questions correctly you can show that a rock has a higher approval rating than God. Like the old saying you can get a grand jury indite a ham sandwich or you can use statistics to prove anything.

    May 4, 2011 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  22. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    We know one thing for sure Sarah Palin will "bounce" right back into hiding when the economic debates start again. In case you hadn't noticed she disappeared while Michele Bachmann was right out there in the line of fire with the big boys. When the subject requires brain power just count on Palin to do an about face and disappear.

    May 4, 2011 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  23. diridi

    To bounce, he needs to bring jobs back...make dollar strong...this is economy. o.k, Work on Fuel efficiency, and energy independence. Bin Laden played key role in rising oil prices....it is a fact. Saudi stopped pumping enough oil to USA, so it went up for the last ten years.....now it is coming down....you realize, true...just do not drive too much...it drops oil prices...

    May 4, 2011 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  24. Phil in KC

    I don't think Obama issued the order to kill Bin Laden as a PR stunt or to improve his ratings....

    May 4, 2011 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |