Why Killing Bin Laden Won’t Save Obama


A new Gallup poll shows that the small bump in support that President Obama received in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s killing has all but disappeared, confirming the findings of a Washington Post/ABC News poll earlier this month. Right after bin Laden was killed in early May, Obama’s approval rating went up from 44 percent to 51 percent. But now the numbers are back down to pre-OBL levels, with the president’s approval rating back down to 46 percent, along with a notable drop in support among independent voters. Gallup explains:

The drop in Obama’s approval rating coincides with an increase in Americans’ pessimism about the economy. Economic confidence also increased after bin Laden’s death but began to decline early this month, perhaps due to reports of anemic job growth and concerns about the slow pace of economic recovery.

Gallup polling in mid-May found that the rally in support for Obama extended to his approval ratings for handling terrorism and foreign affairs but not his economic approval ratings.

So while bin Laden’s death was a significant victory for Obama, the afterglow may be only temporary. As political scientists—along with my colleague Andy Kroll—have often noted, Obama’s re-election prospects will hinge disproportionately on the state of the economy. Unfortunately, the latest indicators have made it clear that a full recovery isn’t coming any time soon—especially in terms of employment. Obama certainly won’t be able to coast into 2012.

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