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. 3rd Term for Obama

    BUSH had 8 years to kill Bin Laden 7 and a half years to kill Bin Laden, did he?
    It took 20 MINUTES TO KILL Bin Laden; Bush had 8 years to killed Bin Laden.

    Bin Laden had been interviewing with TV reporters for 8 YEARS OF BUSH.

    May 3, 2011 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  2. gt

    just get our troops home now...

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

    It took a less than 30 MINUTES to kill Bin Laden; WHY
    BUSH had 8 years to kill Bin Laden;
    BUSH NEVER KILLED Bin Laden; Bush want Bin Laden to ALIVE.
    Bin Laden was ALIVE during the 8 years of Bush.

    May 3, 2011 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  4. welfare prez retoric

    Not in my eyes because this has done nothing to the stock market and if it would have happened with Bush in office the market would have rebounded, so shows a weak leader like obama still spoils all with his I, Me, MY retoric, the anointed one still ruins the lives of Americans even when something good happens.

    May 3, 2011 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  5. d

    @john – you seem confused by the fact that the place "where [you] work" is not representative of the entire country. I thought most people grew out of their "center of the universe" fantasies when they were very young.

    Nice to see the lie about higher taxes in there, too. For the record, taxes have gone DOWN since Obama became president.

    May 3, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  6. Thankfully Independent

    Obama's numbers will stay up for a while ... until the "birthers" start saying that he fabricated the entire bin Laden assault for his own gain and that he provided no proof that it ever took place.

    May 3, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  7. Don

    Our President was fast to take credit for directing the event. Funny how the main source of information, the courier, was abtained thru informaton gathered in 2007 from waterboarding at Guantanamo Bay.

    May 3, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  8. Name

    Obama still sucks. It doesn't matter what he does.

    May 3, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  9. leemon

    Obama's base will be energized and he has removed the traditional Republican edge on being stronger on national security and defense. Unless the economy tanks and barring a major foreign "surprise" , he should win over a lackluster Republican field.

    May 3, 2011 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  10. welfare prez retoric

    once again another CNN bias poll with no honest data to support it

    May 3, 2011 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  11. yasmine

    Less than 24hr they do a poll of who?? President Obama you make me proud!!

    May 3, 2011 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  12. John

    Let's be honest here, at least 45% of voters are Republicans, so... no matter what President Obama achieves, that 45% will NEVER give him ANY credit, or acknowledge his successes.

    May 3, 2011 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  13. Don

    Sure, it took Mr Transparency 2 years to find his Birth Certificate. I knew he had one, always believed that, but why wait 2 years?

    May 3, 2011 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  14. Cincyindep

    Have to admit, Obama seems much more presidential having made this tough call to send in a team over bombing it. As much as people complain that he's at fault for the flagging economy, I'm not as convinced that either side will have much to do with the pace of recovery or could have done something different about it. People complain about the healthcare bill but really, none of it seems to have kicked in seriously yet. Would like to see if republican candidates have anything but abuse and nitpicking. Find a real issue that I can get behind.

    May 3, 2011 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  15. Solah

    It's great we got bin Laden. It will have zero impact on Barry getting re-elected. Zip. He may win, he may not. This is one momentary blip in four years.

    May 3, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  16. Tiller In Texas

    I would like Obama better if they impaled binladen with a Christian cross and displayed him on the White house Lawn.

    May 3, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  17. Tiller In Texas

    SOUTHERN HOTTIE – try to keep up, footnotes are for middle schoolers..

    May 3, 2011 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  18. Dean

    Dear Navy Seals: I think there is a suspicious character residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC...

    May 3, 2011 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  19. lee ann

    Waterboarding was the reason we found him. Give credit where credit is due. Thats the thuth. It is also the truth to say Pakistan does not deserve one red cent of our hard earden tax dollars! If we held on to our money instead of giving it to TERRORTSTS we might have more success on the WAR ON TERROR!!! WE might actually have money for other things like fighting a war worth fighting.Protecting out borders from illegal immigrants and drug dealers is my first choice!!!

    May 3, 2011 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  20. MM in Seattle

    Americans are so rigidly divided in our politics, that any President's approval rating will only be a reflection of whether the poll respondent is a Democrat or a Republican. We are a divided nation.

    May 3, 2011 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  21. Tiller In Texas

    john – you are right, all thanks to some idiot that called himself President for 8 long years. And yes that would be a 4 letter word starting with B.

    FACTS : Clinton = surplus – no war....Bush = 2 wars/ trillions in debt and a crashing economy because of tax breaks for rich corporations and the deregulation of Wall Street. My, My how quickly you Repukes forget.

    May 3, 2011 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  22. Ummm really

    Wow when the Republicans started this war 10 years ago protests abounded... Now that after looking for 10 years the Democrats take the credit.. How noble.. Seems to me that the President is taking allllll of the credit.

    May 3, 2011 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  23. Ummm really

    And by the way... The troops killed Osama... Not the president. He sent our troops to Afghanistan, not to Pakistan where he was killed. Give credit where credit is due. TO THE TROOPS!!!

    May 3, 2011 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  24. Lolo

    The people that did not vote for him previously will not vote for him in 2012, everyone knows this, but to hide behind false lies to not show how racist you are really boils my blood. These republican, tea partiers and birther people are cowards and losers. They do not strive for anything better in life, so they believe whatever is thrown at them from Faux news. You see the rich republicans throw them a few dollars to keep them complacent and they go along to be along. No matter what our beloved President Obama does they will keep hating. It is up to the real Americans to make sure that these cowards true colors are shown. Can you believe these nuts talking about Bush like he accomplished something. He did, but only for the rich. Faux news does not even show Bush saying after 911 that Osama was not a problem for him to worry about anymore, he does not know where he is. Now tell me who has the selective memory? All things Bush they love to tout, but this man was a complete idiot. Cheney, Rumsfeld and Haliburton ran the White House for him and you can take that to the bank. They are just mad that Obama thinks before he acts, not shooting from the hip. You mean-spirited people need to pray that God forgives you, because you may be meeting Satan instead.

    May 3, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  25. Debbie

    John and all of you other people who don't like Obama, If you stop lying to yourself and stop blaming him for the state of this country in which he inherited from Bush, you may be able to think clearly. Or are you like the right wing republicans who are so full of hatred because Obama is "half black" that you would sell your souls and God knows what else to get him out of office? Pathetic.

    May 3, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
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