The president saw only a brief uptick in polling numbers after the successful Navy SEAL raid in Abbottabad
More than two weeks have passed since the successful SEAL team raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and, as expected, about half of President Obama's ratings bounce has disappeared. Gallup's tracking polls conducted through Tuesday night put his job-approval rating at 48 percent, higher than the 43-to-44 percent weekly averages he had before the commando mission but lower than the 51 percent he scored in the week immediately after. The president will enjoy some residual benefits from the raid but will probably not reap a strong and long-lasting boost in his overall approval rating.
Two pollsters from the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies offer the most convincing explanation for the modest and seemingly brief spike. In a May 12 blog post, Glen Bolger and Jim Hobart laid out five reasons. First, the event that precipitated the higher approval ratings was good news rather than bad news. Ratings bumps are larger, Bolger and Hobart note, when "the major military/national security event is bad news, with September 11 being the most prominent example. These events result in a rally-around-the-flag effect that often produces large and sustained bumps. Positive events, like the first [Reagan-]Gorbachev summit and the capture of Saddam Hussein, more often produce smaller and/or shorter bumps in presidential approval." As sad as that sounds, it's probably right. Crisis brings us together; success is soon forgotten.
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Bolger and Hobart also point out that the president's base was "already home" before the bin Laden raid; Obama's job-approval rating among Democrats, especially liberals, and among African-Americans was extremely high, limiting the bounce's potential ceiling. In the three weeks of Gallup polling before the raid, the president's job rating ranged from 77 to 80 percent among Democrats; it jumped to 83 percent after bin Laden was killed. Among liberal Democrats, approval had been between 84 and 86 percent; post-raid, it ticked up to 88 percent. African-Americans gave the president approval ratings between 83 and 86 percent before the raid, with a spike to 91 percent afterward.