Was There a “bin Laden bump” for Obama?

I was tempted to ask if there was an “Osama bump” for Obama. Ah well, mustn’t be snarky about our “gutsy” leader, who did no more than he should have done, though he had to “sleep on it” before he approved the Abbottabad operation.

The first graph below gives Obama’s unpopularity ratings for the ten weeks surrounding the date on which Osama’s demise was announced: May 1, 2011. The blue shading spans polls that preceded the announcement. (The May 1 results were released in the morning; Obama announced Osama’s death later that day.) The green shading spans the two days (May 2 and 3) for which Obama’s disapproval rating reflected, in part, the results of polling conducted before the May 1 announcement.

It is evident that Obama was gaining ground, even before the May 1 announcement. We may take his rating of -11 on May 1 as a baseline for the evaluation of the effect of bin Laden’s death. Generously, Obama gained 4 points, and held that gain from May 7 through May 18. So much for the “bin Laden bump.”

It appears that Obama’s unpopularity was already returning to its core level of about -10 — a level that it had reached in the aftermath of the enactment of Obamacare. (See the second and third graphs.) And Obama’s unpopularity has stayed around its core level since the end of the modest “bin Laden bump.”

Why has Obama’s unpopularity returned to its core level? Here is my surmise: The battle lines are being drawn for election 2012, and those independents who enjoyed deriding Obama (for many legitimate reasons) are “coming home to roost” because they fear that if Obama loses in 2012 they will have abetted the demise of “free lunch” governance. They are of the ilk that decries the deficit while resisting the necessary (and inevitable) reductions in “entitlements.”


Net unpopularity is measured as the percentage of likely voters who strongly approve of BO, minus the percentage of likely voters who strongly disapprove of BO. The approval and disapproval statistics are derived from Rasmussen Reports’ Daily Presidential Tracking Poll. There is a gap in the 7-day trend because no poll was released on May 9. I use Rasmussen’s polling results because Rasmussen has a good track record with respect to presidential-election polling. The following graphs are derived from the same source.