While public reaction to Barack Obama's award remains to be seen, past Nobel Peace Prizes for political figures have not always reflected or engendered broad public support.
In a Gallup poll in October 2007, for example, fewer than half of Americans, 43 percent, said Al Gore deserved his Nobel, awarded for his work on global warming; 26 percent called it undeserved and 30 percent said they didn't know enough about it to have an opinion.
In a Time/CNN poll in 1994, shortly before that year’s announcement, Americans divided on whether Jimmy Carter should receive a Nobel, 47-41 percent; opposed it for Yitzhak Rabin, with 50 percent saying he should not get one, 24 percent saying he should and 26 percent unsure; and opposed it more broadly for Yassir Arafat, with 64 percent saying he shouldn’t receive it. (Rabin, Arafat and Shimon Peres were the honorees that year; Carter won the prize in 2002.)
On the other hand, Gallup in 1990 found 67 percent approval of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Nobel that year. And in September 1997, it found, 63 percent favored one posthumously for Diana, Princess of Wales, in recognition of her work to ban land mines. She wasn’t named, but the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and its coordinator, Jody Williams, did win that year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
Measurements of Obama’s job approval – both its level and its direction – have been a bit inconsistent of late. Of three polls this week, one had him at 56 percent, vs. 50 percent in early September (AP/GfK), another had him at 52 percent, vs. 55 percent in mid-September (Pew) and a third at 50 percent, same as its previous measurement back in early August (Quinnipiac).
Our own last poll, Sept. 12, had him at 54 percent approval overall. The average of good-quality, airworthy polls the last month likewise has been 54 percent, though methodological differences make averaging a dicey proposition (e.g., "undecideds" in these polls, a function of polling technique, range from 1 percent to 13 percent; field periods don't all match up; and sampling, sample management and weighting procedures differ). Specifically for handling international affairs, the Nobel committee's concern, Obama had 57 percent approval in our data.
Separately, 63 percent of Americans in our last poll had a favorable opinion of the president overall – a measure of personal popularity rather than job performance.
His favorability and job approval ratings alike are – as you might have heard – highly partisan, with Democrats and Republicans very sharply at odds, independents (in our data) about evenly split on job approval, more favorably inclined on a personal level.