The elimination of public enemy No. 1 – Osama bin Laden – produced a bump in job approval for President Obama in some national polls, with less movement in others. Underlying ratings of priorities and the war in Afghanistan have changed little in two new polls from the AP and NBC released on Tuesday and Wednesday.
• Obama approval: Obama sees a seven percentage point lift in approval in the new AP poll, from 53 percent in late March to 60 percent now – his highest rating in that poll in two years. That’s similar to the nine-point bounce in our Washington Post-Pew poll on May 2, the night after the announcement of bin Laden’s death. Obama’s ratings saw less movement in the new NBC News poll, at 52 percent now compared with 49 percent in early April.
• National issues: The overall ranking of national issues has not changed in AP polling post-bin Laden. The economy, education, gas prices and unemployment continue to dominate. The situations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya remain of lower importance. Notably, ratings for terrorism as a national issue didn’t change at all from March to May.
• Afghanistan war: The two new polls show that the success of the bin Laden operation hasn’t fundamentally changed views of the war. The AP poll finds that 59 percent oppose the war, about the same as the 62 percent who said so in September 2010. And 80 percent approve of Obama’s decision to draw down significant numbers of troops in July, with 52 percent approving strongly.
The NBC poll asks a different question on evaluating the war and finds 62 percent defining it as a success, up slightly from 57 in April. And there is growing confidence that it will come to a successful conclusion: 38 percent feel that way, up from 31 percent in April. Still, despite getting bin Laden, 50 percent remain less confident in the successful conclusion of the war.
• OBL mission: The AP poll finds an uptick to 60 percent in the number who justify torture to obtain information about terrorism, up from 52 percent in January 2010. Most people, 64 percent, say the government has released enough information about the raid. And an equal number in both the AP and NBC polls – 64 percent each – say the government should not release photos of bin Laden’s dead body.
• Pew news interest: 50 percent said they followed news about bin Laden’s death “very closely” last week, according to the Pew Research Center’s weekly News Interest Index. Perhaps surprisingly, that’s not the most watched story of the year. Rising gas prices in April checked in at 53 percent, and March news about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan had 55 percent closely following.