Washington Was the U.S. right to kill Osama bin Laden? Absolutely, and about time, Americans say.
A new Associated Press-GfK poll shows the nation supporting the raid with rare unanimity, and the glow from the operation is also boosting approval for President Barack Obama’s handling of terrorism and the war in Afghanistan.
Few events have sparked such soaring approval from the nation, and almost nothing has since George W. Bush’s handling of the U.S. campaign against terrorism in the months following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Enthusiasm for the risky raid after its success has given Obama some of his highest marks since early in his presidency, and more than half of Americans now say he deserves to be re-elected.
At the same time, many say bin Laden’s death has increased the threat of terrorism against America.
The death, after nearly a decade-long hunt, of the man blamed for killing thousands of Americans also appeared to help boost Americans’ optimism in areas that would seem to have little connection to bin Laden, terrorism or national security.
More Americans — 45 percent, up from 35 percent in March — say the country is headed in the right direction. Still, about half — 52 percent — say things are heading the wrong way, reflecting the effect of more polarizing domestic issues such as the economy, federal budget deficit and health care overhaul.
Despite a sluggish recovery from the Great Recession, 52 percent of Americans now approve of Obama’s stewardship of the economy, giving him his best rating on that issue since the early days of his presidency.
Overall, Obama’s approval rating is up to 60 percent from 53 percent in March and the 47 percent low point following last fall’s congressional elections. It was 64 percent in May 2009, just months after he was sworn into office. Independents, who are likely to be a key voting bloc in the 2012 presidential election, caused the new uptick in support by sliding back to Obama.
The AP-GfK results were striking in that they found Obama with a higher approval rating than other recent polls that generally said he was in the low 50s. Polls often produce varying results because of differences in question wording and polling methodology. Also, during periods when public opinion about an issue is particularly volatile, and at times when the public is being presented with rapidly changing information, it is not uncommon to see wider variations across polls, even those conducted around the same time.
Some conservatives criticized the AP-GfK poll as heavy with responses from Democrats that skewed the results. AP-GfK polls use a consistent methodology that draws a random sample of the population independent of party identification. Such identification is not static and tends to fluctuate over time along with other political opinions. However, the change in party identification in the current AP-GfK poll is not a statistically significant shift from the previous poll in March and could not by itself explain the poll findings.
The poll reflected somewhat mixed feelings by Americans about the ramifications of the bin Laden raid and the general trend of terrorist threats.
Although nearly nine in 10 of those polled approved of killing the al-Qaida leader, 50 percent said it increased the threat of terrorist acts against the United States. Seventeen percent said it decreased the threat, while 31 percent said they believed it had no effect on terrorism.