Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama's performance on national security and international affairs and his image as a strong leader appear to be behind his rising approval rating, according to new national poll conducted as the president was on an overseas visit to four countries.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday indicates that Obama's approval rating among Americans stands at 54 percent, with 45 percent saying they disapprove of the job he's doing as president. Obama's approval rating appears to have steadily risen in the past two months, from 48 percent in early April to 52 percent in early May and the current mark of 54 percent.
Listen to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer CNN Radio's Bob Costantini discuss the new poll numbers:
"On specific issues, the president's approval rating is over 50 percent on only three out of 11 items tested, and all three - terrorism, Afghanistan, and Iraq - are foreign or security issues," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But his approval rating on every domestic issue listed in the poll is well below 50 and on most of them - including the economy, health care, taxes, and the budget deficit - his rating has remained flat or dropped since the start of the year."
Only one in four says they approve of how the president is handling high gas prices. And the survey indicates that six in ten think that things are going badly in the country today. So why has Obama's overall approval rating risen to the mid-50s?
"Clearly Americans are responding the president's foreign policy credentials, an advantage that is magnified every time he goes abroad. That was a common pattern for previous presidents as well, even those who entered office with an ambitious domestic agenda," adds Holland.
The killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces at the beginning of May also helped give Obama a bump in his approval ratings, with most of that change coming from two key groups - Republicans and senior citizens.
"Obama's overall approval rating among independents and Democrats is virtually unchanged since late April, but among Republicans it is up 12 points, to 27 percent," Holland says. "That 27 percent sounds pretty anemic, but it's Obama's highest approval rating among Republicans in over two years."
The same pattern holds among age groups. "Bin Laden's death has not made much difference in Obama's approval rating among people under the age of 65, but among senior citizens, positive views of his track record are up nine points, to 51 percent," Holland adds.
According to the poll, the president also gets a boost from his personal qualities, as has been the case since he first set foot on the national stage. Fifty-eight percent of Americans say he inspires confidence; 57 percent call him a strong leader.
And although the public gives Obama low marks on domestic issues, it appears they believe his heart is in the right place. Six in ten say that Obama cares about people, and 55 percent say he shares their values - the highest mark Obama has received on that measure since the "honeymoon" period in the months following his inauguration.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted May 24-26, with 1,007 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.
CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report