Gallup: Bush Got Bigger Bounce for Catching Saddam Than Obama Got for Killing Bin Laden

By Terence P. Jeffrey | May 9, 2011 | 2:37 PM EDT

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein undergoing an examination after his capture by U.S. forces in Iraq. (U.S. military photo made from a video via the Associated Press.)

( - President George W. Bush got a bigger bounce in his Gallup job approval rating for capturing Saddam Hussein than President Barack Obama got for killing Osama in Laden.

Obama got a 6-point bounce in his Gallup job approval after he announced that U.S. Navy SEALS had raided a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan and killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Bush got either a 7-point or a 9-point bounce—depending on the day you calculate from (Gallup used both figures)--after he announced that U.S. forces in Iraq had captured alive former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Obama’s approval rating was at 46 percent for the three-day period ending on April 30 and again for the three-day period ending on May 1. Late on Sunday, May 1, Obama announced U.S. forces had killed bin Laden. After that, Obama’s job approval climbed for three straight days, peaking at 52 percent for the three-day period ending on May 4.

That equaled the highest job approval Obama has received at any time in the past year.

“Americans' approval of President Barack Obama is up six points after the death of Osama bin Laden in a U.S. raid on the al Qaeda leader's Pakistan compound,” Gallup reported on May 5.

However, Obama’s post-bin-Laden approval remained at its 52 percent peak for just one day.

For the three day period ending on May 5, Obama’s job approval dropped back down to 51 percent and has remained at that level for the three-day periods ending on May 6, 7, and 8.

Depending on the day you start counting, President George W. Bush’s job approval jumped either 9 points or 7 points following his announcement that U.S. troops had captured Saddam. Gallup used both figures.

Bush announced on Sunday, Dec. 14, 2003, that Saddam Hussein had been found literally hiding in a hole in the ground in Iraq. On that very day, Bush’s job approval started rising.

“Bush's approval is now at 63%, the highest since last June, and seven percentage points higher than what Gallup obtained in a Dec. 11-14 poll,” Gallup reported on Dec. 18, 2003—citing a poll conducted on Dec. 15-16, 2003.

“Bush's job approval rating started to gain on Sunday, Dec. 14, the day of the announcement,” Gallup said. “If interviews for that day are excluded, Bush's pre-Hussein capture approval rating, obtained on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday was actually 54%, suggesting his approval rallied by nine points.”

In a release last week reporting on Obama’s 6-point bounce following the killing of bin Laden, Gallup used the smaller number (7 points) for Bush’s bounce following the capture of Saddam.  “When the U.S. in December 2003 found and captured another ‘high-value target’--former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein--George W. Bush's approval rating rose seven points,” said Gallup's analysis of Obama’s bin Laden bounce.

Bush was deeper into his first term when U.S. forces caught Saddam Hussein in December 2003 than Obama was into his term when U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Yet, at 54 percent, Bush’s approval rating was higher before he got his post-Saddam-capture bounce in the Gallup poll than Obama’s was after he got his post-bin-Laden-killing bounce.

Saddam Hussein was captured hiding in a hole in a village outside his hometown of Tikrit, Iraq, on Dec. 13, 2002. He was armed but did not resist, and was taken alive. “He had a knife, a pistol and a suitcase containing $750,000 in American $100 bills,” the New York Times reported. The Defense Department released video of the captured Saddam the same day President Bush announced that he had been captured. The United States handed the former Iraqi dictator over to the Iraqi government, which tried him in a tribunal, convicted him of crimes against humanity, and executed him by hanging.