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)
  1. Junior

    Something Fishy in the air about this hole Thing??? Why did it take Three year for President Obama to Act??? Were starting to think it something more then just this, maybe a reelection game??? Don't know sure does Sink of games??? The EX President has this information for years on this page-man and gives it to President Obama and he sits on it for three years and out of a hat try's to do something??? Smelll like Games to Us!! But don't get us wrong the World will be a better place with out that Bin Landen killer.

    May 3, 2011 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  2. oh god

    Another bunch of people that dont have a clue what is going on do you really think the reason we killed osama is cus obama is president(those 2 are to close for comfort also) they killed him cus they found him do you think they took him hostage and called obama and asked for the go or something if america went down the toliet and didnt have a leader it would have still happend why would his ratings go up if something happend that would have happend if this country was still run by a 2 year old

    May 3, 2011 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  3. Tim

    Did you all notice how Obama made sure to say that he made the call, as if it was because of him the Osama is dead. Let's just thank God it didn't quite get to in spite of him Osama is dead.

    By the way, how do the lefties feel Obama the Obama doctrine of better dead than in Gitmo?

    May 3, 2011 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  4. Lead Baron

    Those hate filled inbred giblet heads who didn't like OUR President from the get go will find any sad excuse to blame Obama for their own miserable existence. If Obama weren't here to carry their own burden of ignorance and persecution they'd just hate themselves, for we here on the West coast- busy working overtime and going to school (instead of waiting for Gov't to get us a job) are SICK of the lame, worn out "booo hooo Obama socialist kenyan muslim booooo hoooo no birth certificate anti American waaaaaaah booo hooo socialist kenyan muslim" crybabies . Obama 2012. Get used to it

    May 3, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  5. Monk

    Of course it gives Obama a boost. Even I'm supportive of Obama's decision to give this plan the "go ahead."
    However, I'm still against the rest of his country damaging policies and am hoping for a viable republican or independent candidate for the next election. I'm very much hoping it is not another choice of "lesser of two evils." I voted for Clinton the second time around even though I considered him an embarrassment to this country. He was the lesser of two evils at that time.

    May 3, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |

    President Obama will not be re-elected in 2012, This bounce is short lived and then reality will set in and people will see what he is, the worst President ever. Thank you Seals, Thank you President Bush and Thank you President Obama in keeping the Bush Policies in effect to help killing Bin Laden.

    May 3, 2011 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  7. Biodun OH

    Let's give credit to whom it is due, President Obama has done exactly what he promised to do to Osama bin Laden...pursue and kill. We all know we have some domestic problems that emanate from going to war in the first place, but for the spirit of unity, this country has to move forward. We all elected this President, I think it's our responsibility to join hands with him to succeed in all his undertakings. Obama would not fail, so does America...

    May 3, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  8. Earthchild

    Thank you Mr. President for keeping us safe.

    May 3, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  9. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Polls are nice.....aren't they john?
    I know that me and MY seven out of ten co-workers LOOOOVE them!!!
    Give yourself a break, dude.

    May 3, 2011 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  10. Kimberly

    funny the loons on the right blame Obama for the disaster bush left, but NOT the FLAWLESS execution of bin laden- someone that bushy said on numerous occasions that he didnt care about thank GOD republicans are a dying breed, and dont count! HAhA!

    May 3, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    The gentleman named "John" should take a good look at what he has written !!! How in the world he could even think that people like Trump, Palin Gingrich plus the other GOP offerings who, by the way, are not fit to polish Obama's shoes, could come near to beating him in the next election is a complete and utter mystery to me. Obviously this man "John" has the intelligence of a person who is so completely out of touch with the world he believes only the words of the idiots in the GOP party.

    John, a bit of advice, begin using your brain a bit more and actually investigate what the people, who you have stated could beat Obama, have said. You may find that they have the intelligence of an ant and a brain smaller.

    I would imagine that you are not only rather uneducated but also very racial – lord help America if there are more of you

    May 3, 2011 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  12. Beverly

    You people who hate the President don't have any legitimate reason. As for John, you probably work with a bunch of uneducated tobacco chewing, unshaved, stringy hair, blushed faced people who don't even like themselves. They just hate everybody. The only problem with that is hate affects one health. I hope your co-workers have a good health care plan, boy one day they may need it if they continue to harbor hatred.

    May 3, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  13. egore

    @John, you clearly haven't a clue with respect to the statistical science of polling. The fact that 7 out 10 people where you work disapprove of Obama is totally meaningless to the point of absurdity. Tell us something that matters the next time you post. Citing flawed data from a biased "survey" (and believe me I use that term loosly) only serves to perpetuate ignorance.

    May 3, 2011 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  14. seriously???

    J@john– I wouldn't trust your co-workers at the Slim Jim factory. Frankly, Obama is doing a very good job handling crises after crises. Most of the problems in this country are not something anyone can flip and switch and fix. If unemployment and gas prices could easily be controlled, don't you think every president would keep unemployment at 3% and gas at $1.00?? Too bad you're so blind with hatred– you're missing out on a great presidency.

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

    The day will come for all republicans to eat crow.

    May 3, 2011 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  16. HANK

    Glorious day for America. Bring the Troops home. Let somebody else build the country.

    May 3, 2011 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    It does shock me that some people have the nerve to put Obama down when this man has not only shown his intelligence but also his leadership.

    Instead of bringing him down I would think that Americans would be proud of what he has accomplished.

    People like "John" who has made remarks about Obama should begin to use his brain. The Republicans were the ones who were in power for 8 years and actually brought about a lot of the problems the States and other countries are still dealing with. As for the names of GOP potential candidiates for the next election they are not fit to run in any election due to their complete lack of intelligence and respect for the American people. They choose to open their mouths and rattle like a lot of old tin cans. All wind and no substance.

    Obam is a brilliant politican and a caring person. Get used to it !!!!!

    May 3, 2011 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  18. Republican Robber Baron

    Obama should be allowed to serve as President beyond 2016 – FDR style. Very similar circumstances...the GOP stunk during the 30's – 40's during the aftermath of the Depression. The GOP is equally as useless now.

    Now if Obama can get some support from spineless Dem's in the Senate and moderate Republicans...I want to see a victory balancing the budget and draining the Congress swamp of all the scumbag crooks and lobbyists sell-outs like Ensign,
    VItter, Bayh, Landrieu and company.

    May 3, 2011 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  19. Sue

    Remember when Obama wanted to change 9/11 to a "day of volunteer work"-instead of remembering/honoring all that died that day? Why?? Because he was trying to erase the memories that Muslim radicals caused 9/11. Remember when Obama went to speak at Georgetown Univ, and he required that all Christian pictures/symbols be covered with black cloth (do a Yahoo search if you do not believe me)? Remember when Obama refused to put his hand on his heart during the national anthem? Remember when Obama refused to wear a US flag pin-honoring the victims of 9/11 and our troops??

    Obama will get a small bump from this-for a little while-but his numbers will begin falling again very soon. And, as many are asking throughout the country-why didn't Obama give any thanks to Bush? It was because of Bush's terrorism policies that they were able to locate Bin Laden. It was because of Bush's Gitmo policies that they were able to locate Bin Laden.

    May 3, 2011 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  20. Novie

    Get used to it,
    President Obama will serve another term as President. He has earned the title and position, as far as I and many others are concern

    May 3, 2011 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  21. The Day of Financial Reckoning is HERE - The Great Democrat Welfare Society Ends

    Unless it was Obama that slid down those ropes and put one right between the eyes of UBL, this hasn't changed anything. The CIA and military do their jobs no matter who is president. And usually they do them very well IN SPITE of who is president!

    May 3, 2011 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  22. Name king j

    Great job to the military and president obama

    May 3, 2011 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  23. Marry

    The President is a hero despite what the GOP/TP says. It is not only his great accomplishments but also the way he works: Class, diligence, smart, consideration and respect! Most of the criticism is not based on his politics but are driven by envy and many other not so flattering characteristics!

    May 3, 2011 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  24. S. In California - Obama 2012

    He had my vote even before the demise of BL. Again, I'm still waiting to be polled.

    May 3, 2011 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  25. Kimberly

    @john- wanna bet?

    May 3, 2011 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
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