Washington Public disapproval of President Barack Obama’s handling of health care has leaped to 52 percent, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that underscores the country’s glowering mood as the White House made a renewed pitch for an overhaul.
Just 42 percent approve of the president’s work on the high-profile health issue. The survey was released Wednesday before his nationally televised effort to persuade Congress and voters to back his drive to reshape the nation’s $2.5 trillion-a-year medical system.
Spotlighting how Obama lost ground this summer, his latest approval figures on health were essentially reversed since July, when 50 percent approved of his health effort and 43 percent disapproved.
The poll was taken over five days just before Obama’s speech to Congress. That speech reflected Obama’s determination to push ahead despite growing obstacles.
“I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than to improve it,” Obama said Wednesday night. “I won’t stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what’s in the plan, we’ll call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution.”
The poll illustrates how difficult recent weeks have been for a president who, besides tackling health care, has been battling to end a devastatingly deep recession. Fifty percent approve and 49 percent disapprove of the overall job he is doing as president, compared to July, when those approving his performance clearly outnumbered those who were unhappy with it, 55 percent to 42 percent.
The slipping figures were an ominous sign for Obama, who by year’s end wants Congress to send him legislation lowering health costs while covering millions of uninsured Americans. Besides near unanimous opposition from Republicans, the president’s proposal has divided lawmakers from his own party, with liberals battling for a far-reaching plan that would include optional government-run insurance, and moderates demanding a scaled-down version without public coverage.
The poll found that discontent with Obama’s health care effort is not isolated to Republicans. While nearly nine in 10 from the GOP disapproved of his handling of the issue, so did about six in 10 independents and two in 10 Democrats.
“How in the world can anybody look at this and evaluate it and see if it makes effective change?” Kelly Hoots, 35, a pharmacist and independent from Weaverville, N.C., said of the health care legislation. “Who knows what’s in it?”
Further spotlighting the opposition Obama is encountering, 49 percent in the AP-GfK poll said they oppose the health overhaul plans being considered by Congress, compared to just 34 percent who favor them.
People are about evenly split over what lawmakers should do next on health care: About four in 10 say they should keep trying to pass a bill this year while about the same number say they should start over again.
Significantly, though, only about two in 10 say the health care system should be left as is, a positive sign for Obama.
“It’s about time” for expanded health coverage, said Randy Yarborough, 56, a retired cabinetmaker and Democrat from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “Everybody ought to have it. Anybody who says we can’t afford it or we shouldn’t have government health care, you need to wake up.”
There is a clear public desire for a bipartisan approach on health care. Eight in 10 say it’s important that any plan that passes Congress have the support of both parties, with Democrats, Republicans and independents all saying so by roughly that proportion. Two-thirds say if Obama and congressional Democrats can’t win support from Republicans to pass a bill this year, they should keep trying until they get it.