Obama’s Ratings Get a Boost

With the death of bin Laden, Obama’s approval ratings are way up. According to a CBS/NY Times poll released on Wednesday, 57 percent of Americans now approve of the president’s performance, up from an anemic 46 percent just last month. Most of this renewed support comes from Republicans and independents­– national pride seems to have overshadowed partisan politics, at least for now.

But if the past is any predictor, Obama won’t be riding high for long. Back in December 2003, George Bush saw a similar ratings jump after the capture of Saddam Hussein, but within a month those gains had all but evaporated. In fact, Obama might end up faring worse than Bush. Although his approval ratings are up, it’s not the case across the board, especially when it comes to issues like the economy

More than half of those polled disapproved of Obama’s handling of the economy, unchanged from last month. Compare this to December 2003, when Bush saw his ratings jump by 5 percent on the issue of the economy. The outlook then, however, was far more optimistic. The American spirit was on the upswing.

Fast forward to today. Gas prices are up 37 percent over the year while unemployment and GDP remain stagnant– no surprise, then, that Americans aren’t rushing to celebrate. In fact, they might just be hiding in fear– the majority of those polled thought that a reprisal would be likely after the operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Regarding our presence in the Middle East, the emotions of Americans are as mixed as ever. More than half said we should be winding down and starting to withdraw from Afghanistan, but more than half believed our mission there was not yet complete. 44 percent now think the U.S. is winning the “war on terrorism,” up since Obama came to office, but 45 percent say the war is a stalemate.

Once the euphoria does die down, poll numbers will likely go back with it. If there is any lasting benefit for Obama, though, he now has some credentials to add to his foreign policy résumé. Over the past week, he’s worked dilligently to take credit for this military success. He’ll probably wait a while longer, though, before he starts taking credit for the economy.  

Thomas L. Hauch