Many observers, including us, thought Obama would see a much bigger bounce in the polls from the sweet, sweet justice brought to bin Laden's doorstep. Despite the predictions, Obama's bounce has been one of the smallest in Presidential history for a major national security event. In fact, Shawn Mitchell's rubber band ball got a bigger bounce than Obama.
The folks at Public Opinion Strategies (POS), who we referenced when we first analyzed what the potential polling impact would be, have a five part analysis as to why this bounce is more dead cat than rubber band ball.
1. This was good news: If you look back at the POS chart — yes, we know, an unfortunate acronym — of the polling bounce of Presidents after major national security events, the events that gave the biggest bounces were bad news, like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. Good news doesn't cause people to rally around the flag to the same degree.
2. Obama's liberal base was already home: Generally the first subset to give a President a boost in the polls is the base coming home, but in this case, Obama never had a liberal problem. According to POS:
Gallup had Obama’s approval at 86% with liberal Democrats and at 83% with African Americans. In the week after, his approval with liberal Democrats was unchanged, and his approval with African Americans increased just three points.
We don't fully buy this argument, because we never expected liberals to be most happy about the bin Laden killing. In fact, it’s the whiny Progressive bed wetters who are calling for an end to predator strikes and the Guantanamo detainment of bin Laden's buddies. We thought independents and conservatives would give Obama his biggest boost, but POS's third point explains why this didn't happen.
3. The public is more informed than ever: In this hyper-informed electorate, with up-to-the-second news on Twitter, endless analysts poring over Obama's every (failed) policy, and Facebook political discussions occuring round the clock, voters already have a pretty filled in picture of Obama. If you hate Obamacare (we do), his Cabinet (Fire Salazar), and his knee-jerk liberal and big government response to most issues, then this one event isn't likely to shade your view of Obama much.
4. The economy continues to dominate the issue agenda: As we pointed out on Tuesday, a NBC poll had Obama registering the lowest approval rating ever for his economic policies at a bargain basement 37%. If gas prices stay high, unemployment even higher, and voters (rightly) have the sense that Obama's government excesses are causing more harm than good, then that leaves little room for positive increases in your view of Obama. Bin Laden may be dead, but being unemployed or in fear of losing your job makes a bigger difference to you.
5. There is no telling the impact of the White House messing up the narrative: This one, we feel, underscores Obama's Presidency, in that it was the best moment of his Presidency and he still couldn't get it right. First they reported that bin Laden had used his wife as a shield and died in a firefight with the SEALs. Then they tell the public that, in fact, it wasn't his wife and she wasn't used as a shield. And then they say that actually bin Laden wasn't armed. A long line of corrections and retelling of the story led to a press corps and public scratching their heads as to why Obama and his administration couldn't get this slam dunk narrative right. Bin Laden is dead thanks to Obama's decision to order the raid and yet Obama finds a way to look incompetent. In the days when the administration was supposed to sit back and enjoy the glow of success, instead they were making one correction after another.
We were shocked at first that Obama didn't get a bigger bounce, but these five reasons put forth by Public Opinion Strategies seem to explain it quite well. People already know Obama as President and they don't like what he's doing. The economy is still in the tank, while filling up your tank takes practically your entire personal economy. Even killing the face of Evil isn't going to erase that from people's minds.