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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Obama Job Approval at 16-Month High

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.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cain and Pawlenty In, Daniels Out

Quite a bit of movement in the GOP field over the last week or two. Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, and now Mitch Daniels declared they are not running for the presidential nomination, joining Harley Barbour in that club.

On the other hand, Herman Cain and Tim Pawlenty have joined Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, Mitt Romney, and Jon Huntsman as either declared or almost certain-to-declare candidates. Two other Republicans may yet jump in: Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin.

Politico’s Mike Allen quotes Republican operative Ed Gillespie as saying the field is now set; i.e., that the eventual Republican nominee will come from this group.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ decision not to run was considered to be a big deal because a lot of party insiders backed him. He claimed that family considerations weighed into his decision not to make the race. But Daniels had a formidable challenge in front of him had he decided to jump in, given that he was known by only 35% of Republicans as of last week (May 15).

The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty and Dan Balz characterize the race as Mitt Romney and everybody else.

Romney is, along with Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, in a group of three individuals with the highest name identification among Republicans of any of the current field of candidates. He ties Sarah Palin on our recalculated ballot in which Trump and Huckabee’s supporters’ second choices are used. So if Palin is out, then Romney does slightly better on the trial heat than anyone else. But Romney’s Positive Intensity Score as we measure it at Gallup is not unusually high. He does not lead on that dimension. He does not generate a lot of excitement among his fellow Republicans.

We will have our weekly update Tuesday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. ET on our latest tracking data on the GOP field. I will be particularly interested in looking at how Newt Gingrich has fared over the last week after his Sunday, May 15, Meet the Press appearance; whether or not Herman Cain or Tim Pawlenty have picked up name identification in a week in which they were more frequently in the news than previously; and whether any of the so-called “major” candidates have been able to generate any enthusiasm close to that measured for the now departed Mike Huckabee, or for Herman Cain or Michele Bachmann.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How Will Gingrich's Comments Affect the GOP Race?

The impact of Newt Gingrich’s now reverberating Meet the Press comments about fellow Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's proposed Medicare fix -- "I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering," and "I, I think that, I think, I think that that [Ryan's plan] is too big a jump" -- will be evident next Tuesday when we report the latest update on Republicans' views of Gingrich and other potential GOP candidates.

Comments, gaffes and characterizations have a way of sticking to candidates when they reinforce pre-existing images. Gingrich’s image to many is a very smart individual (he has a Ph.D., after all) who has, as they say, occasional issues with "message discipline."

His comments on Meet the Press took about 15 seconds.  He was basically making an assessment of a particular proposal to fix Medicare, the type of assessements political candidates are supposed to make.  Commentary about the comments continues to linger in part because Gingrich was criticizing a fellow Republican -- in particular one who has high visibility as a person willing to propose radical solutions to entitlement problems.

Gingrich's comments also continue to linger because they appear in some minds to reinforce his pre-existing image as a politician who speaks his mind first, and then considers the implications second.  There are other examples of this same phenomenon.  Was Michael Dukakis weak on defense in the 1988 presidential campaign? His opponents used video of him riding around in a tank with a silly looking helmet on to reinforce that image. Was George H.W. Bush elitist and out of touch with the common person in the 1992 campaign? His supposed surprise when he encountered the fact that supermarkets had scanners reinforced that image. And so on.

At any rate, the percentage of Republicans who recognized Gingrich and who had an unfavorable opinion of him (24%) before Sunday's Meet the Press appearance is high, but no higher than for Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, and Gary Johnson (and of course Donald Trump).  How many will have an unfavorable opinion at the end of this week?  Tune in next Tuesday to to find out.

Meanwhile former Utah Gov. and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman is visiting New Hampshire and looking very much like a presidential candidate. Unlike Gingrich, he has a very strong need to increase his visibility. At 25% name identification he is not at all well-known.  In fact, only his fellow former Four Corner State Gov. Gary Johnson is less well-known among those candidates we track. Huntsman also has a very low Positive Intensity Score.  As Politico writers Alexander Burns and Kasie Hunt say "Huntsman remains a political cipher."  The coming weeks will tell us if Huntsman, a distant cousin of Mitt Romney, will be able to increase his visibility. 

I can’t find any evidence that Sarah Palin is on the brink of an announcement about running for president. Some observers are convinced that she will not run.  By our calculations at Gallup, she is tied as the best positioned candidate we track, although she is not a clear front-runner. She essentially ties Mitt Romney when we recalculate our March and April trial heat numbers without Huckabee or Trump. Her Positive Intensity Score is now higher than any of the other better known candidates -- that is to say, Romney or Gingrich. 

A lot of pundits point to Tim Pawlenty and Mitch Daniels as potential candidates who will challenge for the nomination. Both have name identification problems at this point among the broad Republican pool, Daniels' more severe than Pawlenty's.  Daniels is recognized by 35% of Republicans; Pawlenty by 48%.

I can't say this enough:  We are in a very unusual time when it comes to GOP candidates. Since 1948, in all but one instance in which there was not a Republican incumbent in May the year before an election, the front runner for the GOP nomination had already been established. 

Just as a refresher course, let’s look back in history. The numbers below are support for the candidate among Republicans at about this point in the election cycle.  In each instance, I've bolded the eventual winner of the Republican nomination.

May 2007: Rudy Giuliani at 32%, John McCain 24%

May 1999: George W. Bush at 46%, Elizabeth Dole at 18%

May 1995: Bob Dole 51%, Phil Gramm 12%

April 1987: George H.W. Bush 34%, Bob Dole 18%

May 1979: Ronald Reagan 41%, Bob Dole 13%

April 1967: Richard Nixon 43%, George Romney 28%

April/May 1959: Richard Nixon 63%, Nelson Rockefeller 20%

May 1951: Dwight Eisenhower 30%, Robert Taft 22%

March/April 1947: Thomas Dewey 51%, Harold Stassen 15%.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Gingrich, Paul In; Huckabee to Make Announcement

Texas Rep. Ron Paul has officially jumped into the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.  This is his third try.  As a result of his previous exposure, Paul has pretty good name identification.  Seventy-five percent of Republicans recognize Paul. (See full details at our new Election 2012 site.) Paul is in a third tier of current or possible GOP candidates in this regard; Donald Trump and Sarah Palin are best known, followed by Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Mike Huckabee.  And then Paul. 

Dr. Paul -- he and his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, are both medical doctors -- is still not creating an undue level of excitement among Republicans. His Positive Intensity Score is 14, based on 16% of those Republicans who recognize him who give him a strongly favorable rating, and 2% who recognize him whose opinion is strongly unfavorable.  That puts Paul at about an average point in the spectrum of candidates.

Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich also officially announced his candidacy this week.  Dr. Gingrich (he has a Ph.D. in History from Tulane), as noted, has high name identification, but his Positive Intensity Score is worse than Paul's among Republicans, at 11.  I've dissected Gingrich's position and challenges here.

Now, we have former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee next up on the firing line.  Huckabee says he will make a "very important" announcement this weekend. 

No one seems to know if the announcement will be that he, like Gingrich and Paul, is officially a candidate for his party's nomination. Or if he, like Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, will be making it official that he is not running.

Huckabee, born to modest circumstances in Hope, Arkansas, now has a lucrative career as a broadcaster and author. When one goes to Huckabee’s website, in fact, here is what is at the top of his bio:

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is the host of the number one rated weekend hit "HUCKABEE" on the Fox News Channel, and is heard three times daily across the nation on the "Huckabee Report" syndicated on almost 600 stations by the Citadel Media Network, where it has been the fastest growing new program on the Citadel Media Network in recent years.

He is the author of 9 books, the most recent being "A Simple Government," which is currently on the New York Times Bestseller list. This is his fourth book on the New York Times Bestseller List joining "Do the Right Thing," "A Simple Christmas" and "Can't Wait Till Christmas."

Politics aren't mentioned until the third paragraph. This is significant since Huckabee is building a large and expensive house on the Florida panhandle. For him to enter the presidential race, his paid media career would in large part come to a screeching halt, along with the income stream that comes with it.  All of this no doubt makes his decision a tough one.  On the other hand, Huckabee is on the top of our Gallup Positive Intensity Score rankings and has been since we began them. Republicans who know him appear to like him.  He is on this measure the front-runner.  The enticement of another run must be appealing.

What about Donald Trump?  In case you missed it, he scores the worst on Gallup’s Positive Intensity Score of any of 13 current or potential GOP candidates we are measuring. His Positive Intensity Score is zero. As many Republicans say they have strongly unfavorable opinions of Trump as strongly favorable opinions.

Overall, Trump is viewed unfavorably by 41% of Republicans who know him. That is a significantly higher unfavorable rating than any other Republican we tested. The next highest is 25% for Newt Gingrich.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Nation's Pollsters Gather in Phoenix

Greetings from sunny Phoenix, where the American Association for Public Opinion Research is holding its 66th annual conference. This is the country’s premier organization of pollsters, survey researchers, and scholars who measure, analyze, and report on public opinion. About a thousand of us gather each year to present and listen to scholarly papers and reports about research across a wide variety of topics that affect our field.

Are you interested in “The influence of the direction of Likert type scales in web surveys on response behavior in different respondent groups”? Well, if you're at our conference, you’ve come to the right place to learn more. What about “Analyzing non-response and non-response bias in the occupational employment statistics survey using regression trees”? Ditto. Or “Reexamining the validity of different survey modes for measuring public opinion in the U.S.: Findings from a 2010 multi-mode comparison.” You’ll find it here.

Substantively, papers here at the conference cover a wide range of topics, including the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (“Military members' and military spouses’ assessments of the effects of the potential “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” policy”), politics (“Incumbents, challengers, and unallocated voters: an examination of late breaking voter decision in the 2010 midterm elections” and “Taking comedy seriously: the effect of political comedy on political knowledge and ideological polarization”), healthcare (“Public opinion on health reform post-midterm elections: continuities and contradictions”), immigration (“Research in immigration opinion in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and California”), social controversies (“Political, social, and demographic factors underlying public reaction to the “Ground Zero” Muslim community center and mosque”), and religion (“Catholics and confidence in religious institutions”).

This last paper is being presented by a group of Gallup-affiliated researchers from the University of Nebraska. In fact, there are a number of scholarly papers here at the conference using Gallup data, including papers focusing on women’s opinions on women’s religious freedom in Iran and Turkey, Latin American migration to the United States, important Gallup trends since 1980, political partisanship during the Obama era,, and the role of social networks over time in party identification and political participation.

Although not many of the papers are likely to make headline news, they are extremely important indicators of the seriousness with which the nation’s professional public opinion researchers take their jobs.

I’m often confronted by ill-informed statements like this: “Your surveys can’t be right, since many people today use cell phones and you don’t reach them with your surveys.”  Of course, our surveys do include cell phones, in part because our professional association’s members were addressing the cell phone issue as it relates to telephone interviewing years ago.  If you had attended AAPOR conferences, say in 2006 or 2007, you would have been amazed at the number of papers presenting research on how to deal with the cell phone phenomenon.

AAPOR's conference does an excellent job of focusing on the key issues facing pollsters today, and a foretaste of those issues looming in the future.

At this year's conference, I would say those looming issues include the implications of the increasing use of the Internet for surveys, a return to the old-fashioned use of samples based on people's addresses, rather than their phone numbers, and the implications of combining data obtained from different modes of interviewing (telephone, mail, Internet).

The main topic of the plenary session here at AAPOR this year is Immigration Reform, a fitting focus for a meeting being held in Arizona where immigration has been a controversial part of the state’s social and political landscape over the last year. Hopefully the neutral and scientific approach to the topic brought about by public opinion scientists will help us better understand where the people of the country stand on this volatile issue.

The address given by the president of AAPOR this year will reinforce the importance of AAPOR's core mission -- providing decision makers and leaders with assessments of where the public stands on the key issues of the day. That happens to be an issue I personally believe in deeply. Which is not surprising, given that I’m president of AAPOR this year, and I will be the one giving that address.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gallup Launches Election 2012 Site

Today marks the launch of our Gallup Election 2012 site. This is a valuable resource for everyone interested in tracking the vastly interesting, but still nascent, 2012 battle for the Republican presidential nomination, and after that the general election next year.

Our job at Gallup is to monitor the presidential race from the perspective of the American people. The new site presents the data we feel provide the most valuable insights and understanding of the dynamics of the efforts by a wide range of potential candidates to gain the GOP nomination. After the nominee is known, the site will focus on providing daily information on the general election faceoff between President Obama and the winning Republican nominee.

We are tracking some of this information on a daily basis and updating it on the site each Tuesday. All of the data are available for download. The site will always have the latest Gallup data on the election, including the stories and analyses written by Gallup editors.

The main focus of Gallup's GOP nomination tracking this year is the various potential candidates’ name recognition and Positive Intensity Scores.

Positive Intensity Scores represent a new innovation, as I explain in some detail here. The Positive Intensity Score in essence splits the traditional trial heat ballot into its two components -- the candidates’ name recognition, and their image from the public's perspective. The Positive Intensity Score is based on the assumption that intense emotions about the candidates are what matter. It is based on the percentage of those who recognize a candidate who have a strongly favorable opinion, minus those who recognize the candidate and have a strongly unfavorable opinion.

Already, as an example, the Positive Intensity Score tracking provides important insights into the potential candidacies of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Georgia businessman Herman Cain. These two are not in the top tier of potential candidates in terms of name identification. This means they will not show up high on the list in the traditional trial heat ballot. Both Bachmann and Cain, however, generate strong favorable scores among those who know them, meaning they have the potential to be significant factors in the race as they become better known. Bachmann, as a matter of fact, is already becoming better known, with a name identification that has risen from 52% earlier this year to 60% today.

We are about to see the official announcement by Newt Gingrich that he is running for president.  Our analysis shows that Gingrich, although very well known among Republicans, has a below average Positive Intensity Score. He is not generating a lot of excitement among his fellow Republicans at the moment. We will able to track his progress in this endeavor in the weeks to come.

Other Republican candidates will be announcing their official campaigns ahead.  In each instance, our Gallup data as reported on the Election 2012 site will help you understand exactly where the candidate stands in reference to all other candidates in the race.

We will be updating our traditional trial heat ballot among Republicans on a monthly basis, a measure whose significance will increase as the candidates become better known. We recently aggregated the results of three such updates, and looked in depth at the demographics of support for the candidates at this early stage of the election.  The trial heat ballot also provides excellent historical perspective on the race.  At about this point in 1967, for example, Richard Nixon had the support of 43% of Republicans nationwide in Gallup's trial heat ballot, way ahead of the two candidates in second place, Nelson Rockefeller and Ronald Reagan, both of whom had only 7% support. That can be contrasted with the situation today, in which no potential Republican candidate has more than 20% support.

We also are monitoring the potential Republican electorate in terms of issue importance. We split the potential Republican electorate into four groups based on their choice of top issue salience (government size/power, economy/business, social/moral issues, foreign policy/national security) and will continue to report regularly on how these segments of voters are viewing the candidates.

The Election 2012 site will include monthly updates on the “generic” presidential ballot, pitting Obama against “the Republican candidate.” These updates give us a continuing, broad indication of how the general election next year might shape up in these months before the exact Republican nominee is known.

The Election 2012 site will include links to every story and analysis written by Gallup editors on the election, taking advantage of the combined decades of experience we have in monitoring and making sense out of what potential votes are thinking and feeling. We will also have additional innovations in terms of measuring the people's views of the candidates that we will announce as we go along.

All in all, don't miss it!  The Gallup Election 2012 site is the premier one-stop-shop for polling information about the forthcoming presidential election.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

GOP Candidates in SC Debate Have a Lot to Gain

Tonight’s GOP debate in South Carolina features five possible presidential candidates, four of whom are known to less than half of Republicans nationwide. As such, one much-sought-after outcome of the debate could be an increase in the precious commodity of name identification among those who, in some fashion, manage to stand out. 

Of the five potential candidates who are appearing on stage in Greenville, South Carolina, Texas Rep. Ron Paul is best known, with a 73% recognition level in Gallup’s latest two-week tracking average (April 18-May 1). Paul, of course, has run for president before. His fame among Republicans may be enhanced by the fact that his son, Rand Paul, ran successfully for the Senate in Kentucky this last year.  Like his father Ron, Rand is a doctor.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum are next in line in terms of name identification. They are each recognized by 46% of Republicans.

Business Executive Herman Cain, the only black Republican to express interest in running for president, has a name identification of 24%. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has the lowest name identification of any Republican we track, at 17%.

Two of the missing potential candidates tonight certainly do not need the exposure -- at least as far as their name identification is concerned.  Sarah Palin and Donald Trump are each known by more than 95% of Republicans nationwide. Not unrelated, both have starred or are starring in reality television shows.

Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee -- all missing in action for tonight’s debate -- have name identification levels in the 82-87% range.

Of the five candidates on stage tonight in Greenville, the one who ignites the most excitement among his followers is Cain, whose Positive Intensity Score over the last two weeks is 20. He is tied with Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who also has a Positive Intensity Score of 20 (Bachmann's recognition level is 59%). Cain and Bachmann trail only Huckabee in terms of Positive Intensity; the former Arkansas governor has a Positive Intensity Score of 24.  If Cain's appeal to those who know him now is apprarent to other Republicans watching tonight, he could come out a winner.

Of the remaining four candidates in tonight’s debate, Paul, Pawlenty, and Santorum have Positive Intensity Scores of 16, 15, and 13, respectively -- putting them at an about average level. Johnson suffers from having not only the lowest recognition of any candidate we track, but also the lowest Positive Intensity Score, at 6%. Obviously Johnson needs to gain on all fronts in the coming weeks if he expects to be able to challenge his fellow Republicans for his party’s nomination.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

More on the Political Impact of Bin Laden's Death

Gallup reports presidential job approval based on three-day rolling average. The 47% approval for President Obama reported today combines interviewing conducted Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Only Monday’s interviewing would reflect the impact of Sunday night’s military actions that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. Monday night’s interviewing was, in fact, somewhat higher than the previous two days of interviewing.

We will see what Tuesday and Wednesday’s interviewing show. Thursday’s report at here at will be the first average that reflects interviewing conducted entirely after the late Sunday night announcement of the death of bin Laden.

We reported a few weeks ago that 52% of Americans said the characteristic “strong and decisive leader” applied to President Obama. That finding came from a March 25-27 Gallup poll, and was down from 60% who though him a strong and decisive leader a year ago, and down further from 73% in 2009.

This was not Obama’s lowest rated characteristic. Of five characteristics measured in the March 25-27 poll, "strong and decisive leader" was third on the list -- below the 61% who said Obama was "honest and trustworthy" and the 57% who said he "understands the problems Americans face in their daily lives," about the same as the 51% who said he "shares your values," and above the 36% who said he "has a clear plan for solving the country's problems."

We have some additional data on Americans’ views of Obama as a strong leader. A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted April 20-23 showed that 44% of Americans thought Obama was a weaker leader than they expected before he was elected. Only 17% said he was a stronger leader, and 38% said he was about what they expected.

Not surprisingly, a whopping 67% of Republicans said that he was a weaker leader than expected. What could be of more concern to Obama is the fact that 45% of independents say he has been a weaker leader than expected, with only 15% saying he has been a stronger leader. (Most Democrats say he has either been a stronger leader than expected or about what they expected.)

The bin Laden actions could be expected to change those views. For how long? That’s an unknown.

The potential political upside for Obama from the bin Laden action is controlled by the fact that foreign policy, terrorism, and national security are not the most important or pressing issues for Americans at the moment. That distinction is reserved for issues relating to the economy, employment, the deficit, dissatisfaction with government, and healthcare.

Only 1% of Americans in our April update on Americans’ views of the most important problem facing the country mentioned terrorism, and another 1% mentioned national security.

Further, when we recently (but before Sunday) updated Americans’ approval ratings for Obama, his ratings on foreign affairs were actually already higher than his rating for handling domestic issues, including the economy and the deficit.

The American public accords the military great respect, having more confidence in the military as an institution than any other institution we measure. Thus, the fact that the military performed extremely well in this situation will reinforce these perceptions, if not improve them.

It’s possible that Americans may in fact wonder why it is not possible to transfer the apparent efficiency and effectiveness of the military into other agencies of government that deal with other bureaucratic issues and problems.

And, of course, we have no empirical way to project how long any changes in perceptions of the president will last. If there are lasting changes that persist until next year’s election, they will most likely be subtle.

But isolated incidents can make a difference. Ronald Reagan's “I am paying for this microphone!” moment in a New Hampshire debate back in 1980 appears to have helped him beat George H.W. Bush for the Republican nomination. In turn Bush’s ad team’s portrayal of Michael Dukakis wearing a silly looking helmet in a tank fit his image as weaker leader on the military and most likely hurt Dukakis' chances in the 1988 election. The news report that Bush was surprised to see a supermarket scanner while campaigning for re-election in 1992 reinforced his image as elite and out of touch with the common person, particularly when compared with the more folksy Bill Clinton. Film footage of John Kerry windsurfing off Cape Cod may have reinforced his image as an elite if not effete Eastern snob when he ran against George W. Bush in 2004. And so on.

So it’s possible that this one event could have a lasting impact on Americans’ image of Barack Obama. We are just going to have to wait and see over the weeks and months ahead.

Monday, May 2, 2011

History Suggests a Rally in Obama's Job Approval Rating as a Result of Bin Laden's Death

President Obama’s surprise announcement Sunday night of the death of Osama bin Laden raises the possibility of a rally effect in his job approval ratings.

A rally effect is a sharp uptick in a president’s ratings as a result of a high visibility news event involving the U.S., usually internationally. History indicates that Americans in such instances rally around their leader in a sign of solidarity, at least in the short-term.  That rallying produces an increase in the president's job approval ratings.

Obama’s approval ratings had been on a slight upward tick before the bin Laden announcement Sunday night. Gallup’s latest three-day average, based on interviewing conducted Friday-Sunday, does not reflect any impact of the late Sunday night announcement.  Nevertheless, for that three-day period, Obama’s average was 46%, tied as the highest since April 9-11.

I would anticipate, based on history, that Obama’s job approval rating will increase further in the wake of Sunday night’s announcement. Of course, the reason we continue to conduct surveys is that our expectations are not always borne out by the actual data. So we will monitor job approval ratings carefully in the days ahead to see exactly what transpires.

One relatively recent example of a rally effect came about with the capture of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, announced on Sunday, Dec. 13, 2003. Gallup was finishing a poll just as that announcement was made. President George W. Bush’s job approval rating in that Dec. 11-14 poll was 56%. We were back in the field Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Dec. 15-16, after the news of Saddam Hussein's capture. Bush’s approval rating jumped seven percentage points, to 63%.

Prior to the December  2003 Saddam Hussein event, we had seen Bush’s rating jump 13 points with the announcement in March of that year that the U.S. was going to war against Hussein.

And, in the largest rally effect in Gallup history, Bush’s rating went from 51% in a Sept. 7-10, 2001, poll to 86% in a Sept. 14-15 poll -- following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Within a week thereafter, in Gallup’s Sept. 21-22, 2001 poll, Bush’s ratings reached 90%, the highest job approval rating in Gallup’s history.

Thus, a reasonable baseline estimate could be the expectation that Obama’s approval rating could rise at least seven points in the next several days, which would put him over the 50% mark. 

Rally effect bumps in job approval ratings often dissipate fairly quickly.  Bush’s December 2003 seven-point increase, for example, was short-lived, dropping to 49% by late January/early February 2004.

Thus, even if Obama gets a bump in his ratings over the next several days, it is not at all certain that this increase will be sustained. And, looking further ahead, the effect of the death of Osama bin Laden on Barack Obama’s re-election chances a year and a half from now, if any, will be very difficult to determine.

One additional observation. Prior to this weekend's events, Americans had more confidence in the military than any other institution we measure.  The success of the U.S. Navy Seals' operation in Pakistan Sunday will certainly underscore and perhaps increase that confidence.

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