Barack Obama’s approval rating has hit its highest point in two years – 60% – with more than half of Americans saying he deserves to be re-elected, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll taken after US forces killed the al-Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden.

In concerning signs for Republicans, the president’s standing improved not just on foreign policy but also on the economy, and independent Americans – a key voting bloc in the November 2012 presidential election – caused the overall rise in support by returning to Obama after moving away from him for much of the past two years.

Comfortable majorities of the public now describe Obama as a strong leader who will keep the US safe. Nearly three-quarters – 73% – say they are confident that he can effectively handle terrorist threats.

He also improved his standing on Afghanistan, Iraq and the US’s relationships with other countries.

Despite a sluggish recovery from the recession, 52% of Americans approve of Obama’s stewardship of the economy, giving him his best rating on that issue since the early days of his presidency.

The poll also revealed that 52% like they way in which he is handling the stubbornly high 9% unemployment rate.

The economy remains Americans’ most important issue. Impressions of the fiscal outlook have improved after last Friday’s positive jobs report, which showed American companies were on a hiring spree.

More people now say the economy got better in the past month and is likely to continue doing so in the coming year.

And more – 45%, up from 35% in March – say the country is heading in the right direction, though 52% say it is on the wrong track, meaning Obama still has work to do to convince the public to stay with the status quo.

Some have seen enough to know they will stick with him. “I was happy about Bin Laden,” Brenda Veckov, of Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, said. “I put my fists in the air. To me, it was just a little bit of closure for the United States.

“The president made the right decisions on this one, and I will vote for him again.”

However, not everyone has such an optimistic view. “I’m very concerned,” said Susan Demarest, of Snellville, Georgia, who did not support Obama last time and will not in 2012.

“I’m in my 50s and I worry that I’m not going to be able to retire at a reasonable age and enjoy the end of my life because of Medicare and social security and the debt of the country.”

Obama’s boost comes at an important time as he embarks on his re-election campaign and enters the early days of a debate with Republicans who control the House of Representatives over raising the country’s debt limit.

But it is unclear how long his strengthened standing will last in the aftermath of Bin Laden’s death.

Americans say they overwhelmingly approve of the military’s handling of the mission in Abbottabad, Pakistan. But it has not changed public opinion on the war in Afghanistan – most are still opposed to it, and a big majority favour Obama’s plan to withdraw all combat troops by 2014.

Overall, Obama’s approval rating is up slightly from 53% in March and a 47% low point after last autumn’s midterm congressional elections, in which Republicans won control of the house and gained seats in the Senate. It was 64% in May 2009, just months after he was sworn into office.

The finding that 53% say Obama deserves to be re-elected, as opposed to 43% saying he should not be, makes it the first time in an AP-GfK poll that more people have said he should get a second term than not.

Leave a Reply