Suddenly, President Barack Obama is being cast in a new light in the press, and the results are showing up in the latest survey of his performance in a New York Times/CBS News poll.
Obama in recent months has wrestled with budget issues and the economy, with mixed success and lots of criticism from both the left and right. As a result, the sense of his performance has been mixed at well, with polls showing roughly half of Americans, or slightly less, approving of his work as president.
Now, with the successful raid on the compound in Pakistan, and the killing of Osama bin Laden, Obama is out there in major Commander-in-Chief mode.
“Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan,” Obama told the nation late Sunday night. Emphasis on “at my direction.”
Obama seems to like this role of man of military action, and Americans do, too, according to the poll. The ratings of his performance shot up more than 10 points, to 57 percent approval. In a poll conducted in April, less than half — 46 percent — of people in the survey said they approved.
Even among Republicans, Obama’s favorability is on the rise, up 15 points; 24 percent of those polled approving his performance. Independent voters in the survey responded in similar fashion — 11 percent more approved, to 52 percent.
This rise in support from Republicans and independents gives clear evidence that the killing of bin Laden at the hands of the U.S. military had a powerful impact on all Americans, regardless of party. Issues such as these are rare in modern politics, where the partisan divide is maintained by relentless rhetorical machinery.
The New York Times/CBS News poll, conducted May 2 and 3 with a survey of 532 adults, found broad support for the president, his work and his policies. The poll asked, “Do you approve of the way President Barack Obama is handling:”
- “The threat of terrorism?” 72 percent approved. Last summer, it was 51 percent, a huge improvement for the president.
- “The situation in Afghanistan?” 61 percent approved. As recently as January, fewer than half — 44 percent — gave their approval.
- “His job as president?” 57 percent approved.
- “Foreign policy?” 52 percent approved. This was another big swing. In April, only 38 percent of Americans surveyed in this poll approved of the president’s foreign policy.
It was not all good times for Obama, however. Asked about the president’s handling of the economy, only 34 percent approved. Eleven percent had no opinion, and most — 55 percent, a big number — said they disapproved.
Obama faced the task of saving the economy from ruin before he took the oath of office, and has devoted much energy to economic issues since. Nevertheless, the nation’s slow recovery continues to worry the American public and his administration.
PollingReport.com shows that CNN/Opinion Research Corp. has been asking Americans whether the economy is recovering, has stabilized or in a downturn. In June of 2009, only 12 percent of those surveyed said the economy was recovering. Its latest results, from April, show improvement — 24 percent said recovery was under way.
But if that’s the good news — only 24 percent think the economy is going in the right direction — then Obama’s hard work on the No. 1 domestic issue is far from over, and his bounce in approval from Monday’s historic military action is unlikely to hold.
Contributing Editor Bill Edmonds is a consultant in communications in Tallahassee, Florida. A native of Virginia, he has worked in the Florida capital for three decades in journalism, in public affairs and in communications. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Virginia Commonwealth University and a master’s in American Studies from Florida State University.