Tales from the Trail

Gallup poll gives Obama some good news on terrorism issue

January 13, 2010

President Barack Obama’s approval ratings may have slipped in some polling data. But there’s a tiny bit of good news for him on an issue that his Republican critics have been whacking away at for weeks now: terrorism. USA HEALTHCARE/

A USA Today/Gallup poll says public approval for Obama’s handling of terrorism has risen since the Christmas Day bomb attempt, with more Americans than not giving him their approval on a political issue likely to rank high in this year’s congressional election campaign.

The numbers still aren’t great for the president, however. The thumbs up comes from less than half of the public — 49 percent – and those expressing disapproval are close behind at 46 percent. That three-point gap is well within the Jan. 8-10 survey’s 4 percentage point sampling error. Approval is also way down from May, when 55 percent of Americans endorsed his handling of terrorism.

But the latest numbers are up from the days before Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight. Back then, only 45 percent of the public approved of Obama on terrorism, vs. 47 percent who disapproved.SECURITY BRITAIN USA BUSH

That’s interesting because Republicans have been doing their level best since Christmas to criticize Obama’s response to the failed attack, in hopes of making voters think the president and the Democrats are soft on national security.

Bottom line? “President Obama’s response to the Christmas Day bombing attempt — including a review of the incident and the government’s inability to prevent it, and the outlining of new steps designed to prevent a similar occurrence — seems to have had a marginally positive effect on Americans’ views of how he is handling the terrorism issue,” Gallup said.

However, the poll has some not-so-good news for Obama’s approval ratings on two key domestic issues — the economy (40 USA-ECONOMY/percent) and healthcare (37 percent). The president is usually stronger on domestic issues than he is on the international front. But Gallup called his current ratings on the economy and healthcare the lowest of his presidency to date.  Those issues tend to have a more direct impact on the lives of Americans than national security and could be most important to voters come November.

Last time, 44 percent of the U.S. public approved of Obama on the economy while 40 percent supported him on healthcare.

Photo credits: Reuters/Yuri Gripas (Obama); Reuters/Chip East (Police at JFK International Airport); Reuters/Larry Downing (Unemployed workers in Virginia)

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