- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Americans are concerned about retaliatory terrorist attacks following Osama bin Laden’s death but also have more confidence in President Obama’s leadership as commander in chief, according to three polls taken after American forces killed the terror leader Sunday in Pakistan.

Still, the surveys show that people divide sharply along partisan lines when choosing whether to credit Mr. Obama, a Democrat, or former President George W. Bush, a Republican, for bin Laden’s death.

The surveys provide a one-day snapshot of public opinion, and single-night polling that includes only people available on that particular evening can be less reliable than surveys conducted over several days. The public’s attitude, particularly on Mr. Obama’s popularity, could change quickly. Nevertheless, the polls provide the first indications of how Americans view the death of the world’s most wanted terrorist.

Among the findings:


There is near-universal acclaim for the military action that killed bin Laden - 93 percent approve, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll - and a Washington Post-Pew Research Center survey finds that most feel relieved, proud or happy about the death of the al Qaeda leader.

A CNN/Opinion Research Center poll also finds Mr. Obama’s ratings as a “strong and decisive leader” rose after an April dip following a standoff with Congress over the federal budget. In the new poll, 58 percent said he is a strong leader, up 5 percentage points overall and 14 percentage points among independents. The USA Today/Gallup survey finds a narrow majority feel more confident in Mr. Obama’s abilities as commander of U.S. military forces.

But voters divided along partisan lines over the roles of Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush in bringing an end to the decade-long manhunt. Though 76 percent in the Post-Pew poll gave Mr. Obama at least some credit for bin Laden’s death, that dipped to 61 percent among Republicans. Likewise, while 51 percent overall gave Mr. Bush some of the credit, just 35 percent of Democrats did.

The new polls also show increased concern that terrorist attacks will occur in the United States, with more than six in 10 in both the CNN/ORC and USA Today/Gallup polls saying an attack is likely in the next several weeks. Just 5 percent said bin Laden’s death means the end of terrorist threats against America.

The polls surveyed randomly selected adults by telephone on May 2. The Post-Pew poll included 654 interviews; USA Today/Gallup interviewed 645. Both have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points. CNN/ORC interviewed 700 adults and has a 4-point error margin.