Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows President Obama getting high marks following the death of Osama bin Laden, while a Quinnipiac survey has Mitt Romney leading the pack of 2012 GOP hopefuls.
Obama enjoys a 56 percent approval rating, which reflects a nine-point surge between this week and the last Pew poll conducted in April, when voters were split 47-45. The president gained the most ground with young voters (+16), non-whites (+13) and Independents (+10), while approval from Republican voters flat-lined at only 16 percent.
"Obama has gotten about the same boost in job approval as did former President Bush in the days after the U.S. military’s capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003," Pew observes. "Following Saddam’s capture, Bush’s rating rose from 50% to 57%."
But Obama is also getting more credit than his predecessor for the killing of Osama bin Laden. Thirty-five percent of those polled give Obama a "great deal" of credit, and 76 percent give him either a "great deal" or "some." Only 15 percent give George W. Bush a "great deal," while 51 percent give him either a "great deal" or "some."
While Obama's job approval rating remains stagnant among Republican voters, they increasingly approve of how he's handling Afghanistan (43 percent) and terrorism (50 percent)—a jump of 17 points and 13 points, respectively.
While things are looking up for President Obama all of a sudden, they're still looking murky for the field of GOP presidential hopefuls.
Quinnipiac asked Republican-leaning voters whether they were "enthusiastic" about a candidate, would consider voting for them, or would never vote for them. In the "enthusiastic" column, none of the candidates pulled more than 15 percent.
Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin hit that 15 percent mark, while 13 percent are enthusiastic about Mike Huckabee. But Palin also has the highest number of people saying that they'd never consider voting for her—perhaps unsurprising, given her polarizing reputation. Donald Trump joins her at the top (or bottom) of this category, with 58 percent of voters saying they'd never consider supporting either candidate.
Asked to name their 2012 primary preference, 18 percent said Romney and 15 percent named Mike Huckabee. Another 15 percent said Sarah Palin, and Donald Trump rounded out the top four with 12 percent. However, these numbers might not mean much, given the gap between enthusiasm and abhorrence for the latter two candidates.
"This measurement is deceptive, because some who rank high have little upside due to their high negative," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Many of the relative unknowns could have large upsides if they can get out their messages, since they will not have to erase a bad first impression. It is always easier to make a good first impression than to change an existing negative one.
"Comparing those who say they would never vote for a candidate versus those who say they would consider voting for the candidate and those who are enthusiastic is a good way to view a candidate's growth potential."
By that standard, Mitt Romney is in the best position of all. Not only does he lead among "enthusiastic" voters, but he also has the highest number of people saying they'd consider voting for him (38 percent) and the lowest number of people saying they'd never consider voting for him (26 percent).
Huckabee is second in the "would consider" category (34 percent), but fourth in the "would never" (32 percent).
Quinnipiac also asked voters about deficit reduction, determining support for cuts to defense spending and entitlement programs, which are the biggest drivers of cost in the budget. Half of those surveyed were reminded that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and defense took up 60 percent of the budget, while half weren't.
Overwhelmingly, voters disapprove of cuts to entitlement programs, regardless of whether or not they're given the 60 percent figure. However, voters not informed of the figure were split on defense spending, with 47 percent in favor and 49 percent opposed. Those who were informed supported cuts to defense spending 54-43.
Following the death of Osama bin Laden, it will be interesting to see if voters continue to support a draw-down in the military's budget.