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Obama approval hits 60 percent

Photo by Jim Caldwell

Photo by Jim Caldwell

WASHINGTON (AP) President Barack Obama's approval rating has hit its highest point in two years - 60 percent - and more than half of Americans now say he deserves to be re-elected, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll taken after U.S. forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

In worrisome 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 uptick in support by sliding back to Obama after fleeing for much of the past two years.

Comfortable majorities of the public now call Obama a strong leader who will keep America safe. Nearly three-fourths -- 73 percent -- also now say they are confident that Obama can effectively handle terrorist threats. And he improved his standing on Afghanistan, Iraq and the United States' relationships with other countries.

Despite a sluggish recovery from the Great Recession, 52 percent of Americans now approve of Obama's stewardship of the economy, giving him his best rating on that issue since the early days of his presidency; 52 percent also now like how he's handling the nation's stubbornly high 9 percent unemployment.

The economy remains Americans' top issue.

Impressions of the nation's fiscal outlook have improved following last Friday's positive jobs report, which showed American companies are on a hiring spree. More people now say that the economy got better in the past month and that it's likely to continue doing so in the coming year.

Also, more Americans -- 45 percent, up from 35 percent in March -- say the country is headed in the right direction. Still, about half -- 52 percent -- say it's on the wrong track, meaning Obama still has work to do to convince a restive public to stay with the status quo.

Obama's overall political boost comes at an important time. He is embarking on his re-election campaign and is in the early days of a debate with Republicans who control the House over raising the country's debt limit. But it's unclear how long Obama's strengthened standing will last in the aftermath of bin Laden's death.

Americans say they overwhelmingly approve of the military's handling of the risky nighttime mission in Abbottabad, Pakistan. But it hasn't changed public opinion on the war in Afghanistan; most still are opposed to it, and a big majority favors Obama's plan to withdraw all combat troops by 2014.