skip to main content
Approval of Congress, U.S. Satisfaction Rally on Bin Laden Death

Approval of Congress, U.S. Satisfaction Rally on Bin Laden Death

by Elizabeth Mendes

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' approval of Congress increased to 24% after the death of Osama bin Laden, up from 17% in April, and the highest it has been since January 2010 by one percentage point.

Recent Trend: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?

The spike in congressional approval in the May 5-8 Gallup poll most likely reflects a halo effect from Americans' overwhelming approval of the killing of Osama bin Laden. In the days since the U.S. military action that resulted in bin Laden's death, Americans' approval of President Obama has also increased.

Although improved, the current 24% approval of Congress is still lower than Gallup's historical average of 34%. It is unclear how long the bounce -- which doesn't come close to matching the rally of 42 points after the Sept. 11 attacks -- will last. Congressional approval hasn't reached the 50% mark since June 2003.

Bin Laden Halo Effect Extends to U.S. Satisfaction, but to Lesser Degree

Americans' satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States increased to 26% in the same May 5-8 poll, from 22% in April -- a smaller increase than the rise in congressional and presidential job approval. The current level of satisfaction, however, is the highest in a year.

Recent Trend: Satisfaction With the Way Things Are Going in the United States

Despite the uptick, satisfaction remains lower than Gallup's long-term average of 38%, measured since 1979. However, Americans' positivity about the direction of the country is much improved from the all-time low of 7% in October 2008.

Republicans Lead Rally in Congressional Approval, Satisfaction

Republicans' approval of Congress is up eight points after the death of bin Laden, similar to the seven-point increase among independents. Democrats' approval is up five points. There is now a three-point gap between Democrats' (26%) and Republicans' (23%) approval, slightly narrower than the six-point gap before bin Laden's death.

Similarly, Republicans' satisfaction with the direction of the country went up the most after bin Laden's death, increasing by seven points. Independents' satisfaction went up four points, and Democrats' satisfaction remained completely unchanged.

Congress Approval by Party, Before and After Bin Laden's Death

U.S. Satisfaction, by Party, Before and After Bin Laden's Death

Gallup also finds that Obama's approval ratings are up the most among Republicans.

Bottom Line

Congress, the president, U.S. satisfaction -- and even economic confidence -- have enjoyed a boost in positivity from the American public after bin Laden's death, but it remains to be seen how long this will last. One public opinion challenge has already rocketed to the fore, with Congress and President Obama attempting to make a deal to cut federal spending before the U.S. government reaches its debt limit on Monday. Lawmakers' ability to find not just a consensus solution on the budget, but also one that appeases most Americans, may play a role in whether the recent approval spikes last.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 5-8, 2011, with a random sample of 1,018 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030