After the dramatic take-out of Osama bin Laden last Sunday, most analysts predicted a poll boost for President Obama. And as expected, several polls, including a New York Times/CBS poll and a Pew poll, show a significant bounce for the president. Other polls, however, such as Rasmussen and Newsweek/Daily Beast, show no bounce at all. I'm sure the truth is somewhere in between: a modest uptick, which will prove temporary.
Closer inspection of the NYT/CBS poll shows that on Obama's handling of economic issues, his approval numbers actually went DOWN and disapproval went up.
Not a mystery as to why: today we got news that first-time jobless claims spiked last week to 474,000---an 8 month high. There was weaker than expected employment growth in the manufacturing and service sectors. Inflation in food and energy continues to climb. There's a lot of bad economic news around, indicating that the so-called "recovery" isn't really a meaningful recovery at all.
In December 2003, President George W. Bush got an 8 point poll bounce from the capture of Saddam Hussein. It lasted about a month. Years earlier, his father President George H.W. Bush sailed to a 92% job approval after his successful prosecution of the first Persian Gulf war. There is a natural rallying effect to the Commander-in-Chief when the U.S. earns a great military and intelligence victory.
Those political lifts are often short-lived, however. The first President Bush went on to lose re-election just one year after scoring those unprecedented poll numbers. Why? Because a little-known Southern governor named Bill Clinton incessantly pounded one simple message: "It's the economy, stupid."
High unemployment, high gas prices, climbing inflation, massive debt: what went around in 1992 comes around in 2011.
I hope Obama enjoys his well-deserved post-bin Laden-kill glow, because it may not last long. Americans vote their job situation and their wallets, which every day are lighter and lighter.
A poll bounce today could morph into a poll wipe-out tomorrow. It is, after all, the economy, stupid.