President Obama’s current job approval rating for May 22-24 is 53%. That’s his highest since Feb. 12-14, 2010 -- more than 16 months ago. His previous high this year was 52%, reached at several points earlier this month after the May 1 announcement of the successful raid in Pakistan that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.
A few days after the six-percentage-point bounce in Obama's approval rating that came in the days immediately after the bin Laden death, from 46% to 52%, the president’s job approval began to settle back down, returning to 46% by our May 13-15 average. It then began to climb again, and for the past three days has been at 50% or higher -- including today’s 53%.
All this is quite a change from just about a month ago, in mid-April, when Obama's job approval reached 41%, tied for the lowest of his administration.
It’s often difficult to pinpoint why a president’s job approval rating goes up or goes down. The bin Laden raid was one of those times when the causal factor was pretty clear.
Now, it’s less clear. The proximate event that provides a reasonable or possible cause is Obama’s trip to Europe. The news coverage has been generally positive, with many pictures of the president appearing statesmanlike and in the company of Irish and British leaders. It’s possible as well that the tragic destruction and deaths caused by tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and elsewhere in the Midwest -- and Obama’s pledge to visit Missouri this weekend upon his return from Europe -- could be producing a rally effect of sorts.
At any rate, we’ll continue to monitor. As the accompanying graph shows, presidential job approval ratings can move around quite a bit.
Looking ahead, the magic number for Obama is 48%. That is, if he can manage a 48% or higher job approval rating in the fall of 2012, then his chances for re-election are better than 50-50. If his job approval rating in September and October of 2012 is 53%, where it is today, then his chances of being re-elected would be very high. Stay tuned.