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Poll: Nine-point bounce for Obama after bin Laden news

Less than 48 hours after President Barack Obama announced the death of the man who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks, one new poll shows the president’s approval rating has jumped up by nine points, with Americans’ opinions of his handling of terrorism reaching the highest point during Obama’s presidency.

The overnight poll, conducted by The Washington Post and the Pew Research Center, found that 56 percent of respondents approve of Obama’s performance as president, up nine points from similar polls last month.  That boost includes a substantial bump of 10 points among independents.

The poll, conducted Monday night, offers a first glimpse of the coveted “bounce” that the president could benefit from in the wake of the successful covert operation to hunt down Osama bin Laden, although subsequent multi-evening polls are likely to give a fuller picture of the nation’s reaction to the news.

In the Post-Pew poll, 69 percent of respondents said that they approve of Obama’s handling of the threat of terrorism, the highest rating since he became president in 2009. And more than three-quarters of Americans believe that Obama deserves credit for bin Laden’s death, with 35 percent saying he should get “a great deal” of credit for the terrorist leader’s killing.  

(That number falls substantially among GOP respondents. While about six-in-ten self-identified Republicans say the president deserves “some” recognition for the successful operation in Abbottabad, just 17 percent say he is worthy of “a great deal” of credit. Over 80 percent of Republicans say that laurel should go to former President George W. Bush.)

A CNN poll conducted immediately in the wake of bin Laden’s death found only a one point increase in Obama’s approval rating compared to a survey taken over the weekend before the Sunday announcement. In that poll, 52 percent of respondents said they approve of the president’s job performance, while 67 percent gave him a thumbs up for his handling of terrorism.

It’s worth noting that, while the Post-Pew poll’s nine point bounce would represent a healthy surge for a president recently weighed down by high gas prices and persistent unemployment, Americans remain pessimistic about the nation’s economic situation.  Monday night’s poll showed that only 40 percent of respondents say they approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, compared to 55 percent who disapprove. That’s almost identical to the same measure last month.

And, as one of us wrote yesterday, even a major poll bump doesn’t ensure a successful re-election race, and pessimism about the economy can be an important factor in the half-life of a bounce.