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Obama Approval Up on International Issues, Not on Economy

Obama Approval Up on International Issues, Not on Economy

Sixty-three percent approval on terrorism

PRINCETON, NJ -- Majorities of Americans approve of the way President Obama is handling terrorism, the situation in Afghanistan, and foreign affairs. That contrasts with the majority disapproval he gets for his handling of the economy and the federal budget deficit.

May 2011: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling [issue]?

These results are based on a May 12-15 USA Today/Gallup poll that shows the effect of Osama bin Laden's death on Americans' evaluation of how Obama is handling key issues. The president's ratings on terrorism, foreign affairs, and the situation in Afghanistan all improved significantly from Gallup's prior measurement. However, Americans do not view his handling of the economy or the federal budget deficit any better than they did in late March.

May 2011: Change in President Obama's Approval Ratings on Issues

More generally, Gallup has shown a sustained increase in Obama's overall job approval rating since bin Laden's death, from an average of 44% in the week before it occurred to 51% in the week after. Since then, his approval rating has averaged 50%, suggesting the rally in support is ongoing.

Despite the increase in his overall approval rating and his approval ratings on many issues, Americans have not globally improved their evaluations of Obama, given his flat ratings on the economy and the deficit.

The president's weak approval on the economy is a clear vulnerability, given the issue's dominant status as the most important problem facing the country in Americans' eyes. Americans are less concerned about international matters such as terrorism and the war in Afghanistan, issues on which Obama receives much more positive ratings. Indeed, the May 12-15 poll finds that U.S. registered voters are much more likely to say the economy will be extremely or very important (71%) to their decision on whether to vote for Obama in 2012 than will foreign affairs (49%).

Thus, the course of the economy over the next 17 months may be the most significant factor in determining how voters evaluate President Obama's performance and whether he is re-elected.

Survey Methods

Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 12-15, 2011, with a random sample of 1,024 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

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

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