The President’s Policies Are More Popular Than The President

Bill Scher

Pundits keep saying that the President is more popular than his policies, undercutting his mandate to take bold action.

But on health care, the opposite is true.

Last week, I noted that one W. Post reporter repeated the knee-jerk conventional wisdom, when in fact, his own paper’s poll just showed majority support for the main provisions in pending health care legislation, while Obama’s approval rating on health care was below 50%.

Today, two more polls show the public strongly supports Obama’s actual health care policies, even though their support of Obama has declined.

From MSNBC’s writeup of the NBC/WSJ poll (emphasis added):

Pluralities now say that the president’s health care plan is a bad idea, and that it will result in the quality of their care getting worse. What’s more, just four in 10 approve of his handling on the issue. The poll also finds that Obama’s overall job-approval rating has dropped to 53 percent…

[But] when read the specifics of his goals for health care — like requiring insurers to cover those with pre-existing conditions, providing low-income families with subsidies to help them afford insurance, and raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for the subsidies — 56 percent say they support Obama’s plan. Only 38 percent oppose.

Now, the NBC/WSJ poll does show more tepid support for the most critical piece, the public plan option, with a plurality of 46%.

But that is out of step with every other poll ever taken gauging support for the public plan option, including today’s NYT/CBS poll.

That poll shows Obama overall approval rating at 58%, and his handling of health care at 46%.

But when asked “would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan,” a strong 66% support — similar to what public plan option has garnered in most previous polls.

Yes, Obama’s numbers have slipped. Perhaps that’s a mix of swing voters buying the spin that “Obama’s plan” (as opposed to the actual plan) won’t tackle rising costs, and some liberal voters unhappy that Obama hasn’t been a stronger advocate for the public plan. Perhaps it’s just the mere fact that Obama hasn’t handled the issue well enough to get something passed by now.

But whatever the reason is, it manifestly is not because the public has soured on the actual pillars of the bills that have advanced in the House and Senate.

So there is no reason for pundits to keep saying the president is more popular than his policies.

And there is no reason for skittish politicians to flinch from backing the public plan option based on these new polls.

If anything, it should motivate them to help the president make the case that his actual ideas are essential to expanding coverage and reducing the deficit.

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