CNN Poll: Bin Laden killing gives Obama boost on terrorism & Afghanistan approval
May 3rd, 2011
12:32 PM ET
12 years ago

CNN Poll: Bin Laden killing gives Obama boost on terrorism & Afghanistan approval

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama is seeing a boost in his poll numbers on how he's handling terrorism and the situation in Afghanistan, thanks to his Sunday announcement that Osama bin Laden has been killed, according to a new national survey.

But a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Tuesday also indicates no large bump in the president's overall approval rating compared to a poll taken over the weekend, but his rating has been trending upward since mid-April.

The survey was conducted Monday, one day after the president's announcement that the al Qaeda founder and leader was shot and killed by U.S. forces during a raid in Pakistan. While the poll indicates that two-thirds of the public sees bin Laden's killing as a major achievement, more than nine out of ten say the al Qaeda terrorist network will remain a threat.

Sixty-seven percent of people questioned say they approve of how Obama's handling the issue of terrorism, up seven points from January. And his approval rating on handling the situation in Afghanistan now stands at 58 percent, also up seven points.

But the poll indicates that the president's overall approval rating, now at 52 percent, is up just one point from a poll conducted Friday through Sunday; it is up four points from Obama's 48 percent approval rating in early April. All interviews in the poll taken this weekend were conducted before the announcement of bin Laden's death.

"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 it seventh on the list."

The killing of bin Laden does appear to give the president a boost on how he's perceived. Fifty-eight percent now think the president's a strong and decisive leader, up five points from early April.

Two-thirds of people questioned say they consider the death of bin Laden as a major achievement for the United States, with 23 percent terming it a minor achievement and nine percent saying it wasn't an achievement at all.

"But nearly all Americans believe that bin Laden's death will not end the threat from al Qaeda, and the number of Americans who expect a terrorist attack in the next few weeks is at its highest level since the start of the Iraq War in 2003," adds Holland.

According to the survey, 44 percent say the U.S. is winning the war on terrorism, with only 9 percent saying the terrorists are winning and 45 percent saying neither side is winning the conflict.

Six in ten say that things are going well for the U.S. in Afghanistan, an all-time high for that question. But the poll indicates support for the war in that country has barely moved since January and two-thirds would like to see some or all U.S. troops withdrawn.

The Obama administration is deciding whether or not to release more proof that Osama bin Laden is actually dead. His body already has been buried at sea, but a U.S. government official says photos were taken of bin Laden's body after his death. Fifty-six percent say the government should release a picture of bin Laden's body.

The killing of the al Qaeda founder and leader comes just one month after Obama launched his re-election campaign. The poll indicates the number of Americans who say they plan to vote for Obama has also not budged.

"But the president does come away with one 2012 advantage - the public now perceives him as a winner. A majority of Americans now say he will win re-election in 2012; in January most thought he would lose," says Holland.

How does the president's modest bump so far in the polls compare to his predecessors?

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, which is the most heavily watched indicator for a president's clout, 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. Saddam's capture is probably the closest historical analogy we can draw, but because it occurred so close to the start of a presidential campaign, it may not provide good guidance for the length of any bounce President Obama picks up today."

Holland notes as well that the gains Bush's father made immediately after the Persian Gulf War in 1991 also petered out just as a presidential campaign began.

"In March, 1991, the approval ratings for George H. W. Bush rose to nearly 90 percent and stayed above 50 percent for the rest of the year. When did they drop below 50 percent? In January of a presidential election year," says Holland. "The track record of both Bushes indicates that no matter how long Obama's bounce lasts, it is not likely to survive the highly-partisan environment of a presidential election."

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted Monday, May 2, with 700 national adults questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Filed under: Afghanistan • Al Qaeda • CNN poll • Osama bin Laden • Polls • President Obama
soundoff (92 Responses)

    Obama will be President through 2016 – get used to it!

    May 3, 2011 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  2. Davey

    "In March, 1991, the approval ratings for George H. W. Bush rose to nearly 90 percent and stayed above 50 percent for the rest of the year. "

    Even with this major accomplishment, Obama still can't break much above 50%. Goes to show you no matter what he tries to do, people will never give him his due credit.

    May 3, 2011 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  3. ConservaFASCISTS -aka- Mammon

    Expect those numbers to steadily rise if the President can somehow get these gas prices lower albeit he has no control over it. Our President has proven that he is a man of his word. He said back on the campaign trail that if OBL was in Pakistan and if the Pakistanis were unable or unwilling to go after him, he will. And he did exactly that!!!

    May 3, 2011 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  4. john

    In what nation did you take this poll ?
    7 out of 10 where I work don't agree with this president, don’t trust this president, won’t support this president, sure, you keep asking the same question to the same people.

    There is no bump in the president's approval rating, it’s not hard to figure out why!
    higher unemployment
    higher taxes
    higher home foreclosure rate
    tax evading Democratic Party
    tax evading Obama administration
    out of control budget / no budget
    health care reform disaster
    price of gasoline
    price of food
    the price of everything is going up
    Anyone can beat Obama in the 2012 election; Romney, Palin, Pawlenty, Trump or Gingrich will easily beat Obama in a massive land slide win. Can’t wait to see how the media spins that.

    May 3, 2011 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  5. ahunter

    Great job Mr. President, It is sad that he had to be so secretive for fear that those who want to take his place would have tried to destroy the mission and watch Osama get away , just to hurt sad

    May 3, 2011 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  6. Mark

    I would hope since CNN does nothing but campaign for Obama their poll would at least give Obama a little edge:)

    CNN = ONN
    Obama Nurturing Network

    May 3, 2011 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  7. byrd

    I want to thank President Obama...In 3 years he has somewhat changed healthcare,Saved a captain in Somolia, Saved a lot of big companies(who by the way did pay the goverment back, Got Bin Ladden, next on his list the economy...I think this is a great achievement after all the birther's,teaparties, and damn near having his Democratic party destroyed during the mid-terms....If he has done all this in 3 1/2 years than I think he deserves a re-election to try to fix the economy...I think he will succeed in the end

    May 3, 2011 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |


    It will take effort on your part but please cite data and sources. Otherwise, your post is pure mumbo jumbo talking points courtesy of Faux News.

    May 3, 2011 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  9. dj brown

    At least he has achieved what was once thought as impossible. Thank you Mr. President for your tact, decisiveness and precision. You are a leader,. RIDE ON...........

    May 3, 2011 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  10. Rudy NYC

    Hamas complained about it. How much more proof do you need?

    May 3, 2011 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  11. Doug wieser

    Donald trump for president!

    what a joke

    May 3, 2011 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  12. New Age Independant

    Obama was smart enough to follow the terror policies of Bush. Besides the fact that that he campaigned those policies, he's realized that the course of action was indeed the correct one, so I'll give him credit for that. It's funny how liberals heap praise on likely the easiest decision that a President could make here. Sending the team in was a no-brainer. Obama simply didn't want to be compared to Clinton by letting him slip away when he had him in his sights. He wouldn't even have a chance of reelection once word got out that he didn't go after him. Obama still has plenty of failures on healthcare, the economy, unemployment, foreign relations, terrorism, energy...

    May 3, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  13. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I'd like to have an argument with Republicans as to why they credit Bush for bin Laden's death but deny Bush's responsibility for the economic crisis that has had an impact as well on all Americans.

    May 3, 2011 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  14. PalmReader

    "with 23 percent terming it a minor achievement and nine percent saying it wasn't an achievement at all."

    Goodness, how terribly unpatriotic of those 32%ers who don't think killing OBL a major accomplishment ... considering the death toll of American's directly attributed to him. I fully remember the Kenya and Tanzania bombings, the Twin Tower bombings in 1993, the bombing of the USS Cole, AND 9/11. Each bombing absolutely planned out by OBL.

    May 3, 2011 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  15. Dennis

    Obama wins or loses the next election based on unemployment rates at the time of the 2012 election. It'sthe economy stupid. Ask George H W Bush.

    May 3, 2011 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  16. GI Joe

    Suck on THAT you petty little republican nutjobs.

    You're all a dispicable lot. Not even American!!

    May 3, 2011 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  17. jim

    To john ...

    "Can’t wait to see how the media spins that." .....

    How about this ? ...

    Bush = 9/11 – bin ladin alive
    Obama = no 9/11 – bin ladin dead

    Also, as long as you loved Bush, explain what he said in 2004 ...

    George W. Bush's stance on housing during the 2004 Republican Convention Acceptance Speech

    This speech was delivered at the 2004 Republican National Convention on September 2, 2004 when George W. Bush officially accepted the Republican nomination to run for President.

    "Another priority for a new term is to build an ownership society, because ownership brings security, and dignity, and independence. Thanks to our policies, homeownership in America is at an all-time high. Tonight we set a new goal: seven million more affordable homes in the next 10 years so more American families will be able to open the door and say welcome to my home."

    I wonder what these policies were that put so many people into homes they couldn't afford?

    John, you can start your spin now if you can
    Spin John Spin

    May 3, 2011 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  18. Namekenneth Williams

    Even if you don't get reelected Mr president, that's okay, you still will be remembered as a great leader. Greater than both bush's, both Clinton's, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Kennedy. Ur up their with Roosevelt, Lincoln, and Jefferson. I thank you for all you have accomplished.

    May 3, 2011 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  19. Gwen Vos

    No he is still worthless.

    May 3, 2011 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  20. XWngLady

    The President has done well. PERIOD. There are those who, even if he walked on water, would revile him and do everything in their power to bring him down, even if it destroys the country in the process.Do I agree with everything that he's done (and he's managed to do quite a bit in only 2 years), NO! But I have enough sense to know that NO ONE could havve miraculously snapped their fingers and made all of the problems that we had as of January 2009 (the date he was actually inaugurated) go away. He's not a genie. He's a human being and for a regular human being, I think he's doing pretty well. All of the doom and gloom that Republicans keep spewing are all false prognostications, speculations and flat out fearmongering about what they THINK might happen in the future. They negelct to mention that RIGHT NOW, the President is working hard to get our economy growing even more that it already has thanks to him and to keep our country safe. Republicans have done SQUAT in this endeavor, even after they won the 2010 elections. It is clear to anyone with half a brain who is for America (that is ALL of Amerca, not the so-called REAL Americans, and REAL patriots, but EVERYONE who calls this land their home) and who is out for themselves....Thank You President Obama. I will be proud to cast my vote for you in 2012.

    May 3, 2011 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  21. Tony

    Again. I do not believe this. That people still think that the Oval office is some sort of throne in which the President has absolute power and can create jobs or lower taxes. Unless they change the constitution and did not tell anyone. The President introduces a bill to Congress. Congress can vote no or yes. If Congress pass a bill the President does not like he can veto. Checks and balances. PLEASE, President Obama single handedly destroyed the economy in 2 years that is just dumb and show that you do not know how your government actually works. The President is NOT A KING. Take a look at how your Reps and Senators contributed to this mess.

    May 3, 2011 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  22. Al-NY,NY


    In what nation did you take this poll ?
    7 out of 10 where I work don't agree with this president, don’t trust this president, won’t support this president, sure, you keep asking the same question to the same people.

    Yeah John, the people in big banks in Mississippi REALLY love Obama

    May 3, 2011 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  23. Tim

    Thank God Bush laid down such a thoughtful and comprehensive system that Obama couldn't find a way out of.

    May 3, 2011 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  24. Tony

    Yes I Know I missspelled some words. Doesn't make it any less true.

    May 3, 2011 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  25. kevin

    Everything Obama "did" to kill Osama was put in place by Bush. They got the info by water-boarding, we "attacked" a "friendly" country without informing them of our intent. If Obama had closed down Gitmo like he wanted to, the none of this would have been possible.
    All Obama did was cut off his golf game a bit early, and watch the monitor as REAL hero's accomplished something another administration started. Thats why Obama get a measly 1 point boost in approval – its more than he deserves.

    May 3, 2011 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
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