Our new ABC News/Washington Post poll out this morning shows that the President’s joint session speech may have stopped his summer slide, but it doesn’t appear to have been the “game-changer” Democrats were hoping for.
No doubt Obama’s passionate presentation energized his partisans and began to unify Congressional Democrats, but this poll is the best evidence yet of where the public stands – and it demonstrates how difficult it will be for Obama to shape the debate and overcome skepticism about his plan.
Bottom line: right now, voters are almost exactly where they were before the speech.
Big question: will praise of Obama’s speech from moderate Dems (Ben Nelson called it a “game-changer” and President’s meeting with 17 Blue Dogs had a positive vibe) begin to impact public, or will more poll results like this shake the confidence of the Congressional centrists Obama needs?
Big question II: is dropping the public option the game-changer? Olympia Snowe says it’s the only way to get a bill through the Senate, and our poll shows a significant shift in support: from 46-48 to 50-42.
Here are the key numbers:
Split on Obama’s handling of health care: 48-48 (46-50 August 17)
Support Obama’s health care reforms: 46-48 (45-50 August 17)
President Obama’s job approval is at 54 (57 August 17)
Deficit: 65% think health care reform will make it worse
Medicare: 56% of seniors think it will weaken Medicare
On the crucial “what’s in it for me?” question, twice as many Americans (32-16) think it will make their own care worse, twice as many (40-20) think it will increase their costs, and more than three times as many (37-11) think it will hurt their coverage.
On the positive side for the President, his personal favorability is still high (63), Americans trust him more than Republicans on just about every issue by a wide margin, and they blame his opponents for the negative tone of the debate. And watch this trend going forward: the number of Americans who call themselves Independents has climbed to an all-time high — 43% — Republicans are still at their all time low — 21% — and Democrats have slipped from 36% in 2008 to 32% now.
Are the Perotista’s coming back?
For much more, go to our polling director Gary Langer’s analysis.