Bad Polls for Obama; CBS Finds Bright Spots, NBC Skates Over Devastating Judgment

CBS and NBC released new polls Wednesday night which illustrated how the public is moving against President Barack Obama on health care as his overall approval, at least in the NBC survey, fell to its lowest-ever level. But while both networks conveyed the bad news for Obama, NBC's Chuck Todd failed to point out how more now disapprove than approve of Obama's handling of health care, a devastating judgment for Obama, and CBS took time to elaborate on how “the poll also has some good news” for Obama.

“Less than half approve of the way President Obama is handling health care,” Katie Couric announced Wednesday night in reporting on the CBS News/New York Times poll,” but she saw a potential rebound ahead: “So he has some convincing to do. And that took him today to the Tar Heel State.” Chip Reid soon ran through bad news for Obama -- “69 percent of Americans say they're concerned quality of care will diminish...77 percent that their medical costs will rise” -- but then delivered some “good news for the President: 82 percent of Americans agree with him that the health care system is in need of a major overhaul” and “if there's no reform, 75 percent are concerned their costs will go up.” And “66 percent support the public option.”

On NBC, Todd damned with faint praise: “If there is one piece of good news that the White House can take from this is that he's still the most popular politician in the country. But that's part of the problem, he is now viewed as just another politician” as “this campaign for health care...has taken a serious toll.” With a matching graphic on screen, Todd recounted how the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll determined that “for the third straight month, the President's job approval rating has dropped -- from 61 percent in April, to 56 percent in June, to 53 percent now.”

On health care, Todd noted, “just 41 percent approve of the President,” but while the graphic on-screen listed how more disapprove -- 46 percent -- Todd didn't enunciate that very damaging finding which puts Obama a mere one point higher than where Bill Clinton stood on health care in July of 1994. It appears this is the first time the question was posed in the NBC/WSJ survey. (In the CBS poll, more still approve than disapprove of Obama on health care: 46 percent approve versus 38 percent disapprove.)

From Todd's summary of the poll on the Wednesday, July 29 NBC Nightly News:
CHUCK TODD: Well, if there is one piece of good news that the White House can take from this is that he's still the most popular politician in the country. But that's part of the problem, he is now viewed as just another politician. And this campaign for health care, Brian, has taken a serious toll on him and his party. As our pollster, one of our pollsters says, the August vacation for the President can't come soon enough.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Sometimes I get a little frustrated.

TODD: At the end of yet another campaign style event for health care the President wasn't just speaking for himself yesterday, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. For the third straight month, the President's job approval rating has dropped -- from 61 percent in April, to 56 percent in June, to 53 percent now....

On the economy, the President's numbers are even lower. Just 49 percent approve of his performance. And as for the stimulus, more folks told us the President's signature $800 billion plan was a bad idea, 43 percent, than a good idea, 34 percent. Then there's health care. Just 41 percent approve of the President on this issue. His campaign has not convinced retired New York City police officer Felix Perez....
The entire CBS Evening News story, transcript provided by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
KATIE COURIC: Now to health care in general, paying for reform and insuring the uninsured. Americans have some big doubts about the plans making their way through Congress. In a CBS News/New York Times poll out tonight, only 31 percent said those plans would actually help them. Nearly twice as many said they would not. And less than half approve of the way President Obama is handling health care. So he has some convincing to do. And that took him today to the Tar Heel State. Here's Chip Reid.

CHIP REID: At a town hall meeting in North Carolina today, the President made an impassioned argument for overhauling health care.
    
BARACK OBAMA:  I'm going to need your help, Raleigh. Let's go do it.

REID: But while this supportive audience appeared to be sold, he still hasn't convinced most Americans, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll. The President, for example, says just about everyone will benefit from health care reform.

OBAMA: Whether or not you have health insurance right now, the reforms we seek will bring stability and security that you don't have today.

REID: But, according to the new poll, if government does act to cover everyone, 69 percent of Americans say they're concerned quality of care will diminish; 76 percent are concerned taxes will go up; and 77 percent that their medical costs will rise. And what about this claim?

OBAMA: If you like your doctor, you keep your doctor.

REID: He's repeated it dozens of times, but the new poll says 62 percent are still concerned they will have to change doctors. The poll also has some good news for the President – 82 percent of Americans agree with him that the health care system is in need of a major overhaul.

OBAMA: If we do nothing, I can almost guarantee you your premiums will double over the next ten years.

REID:  In fact, if there's no reform, 75 percent are concerned their costs will go up; 66 percent worry about someday losing their coverage. As for the President's plan to create a new government health insurance plan to compete with private insurers-

OBAMA: I'm for the public option.

REID: -most Americans agree – 66 percent support the public option; only 27 percent are opposed. The President says he's confident health reform will be signed into law this year. The American people, though, are far less certain. Only 16 percent say it's very likely to happen in 2009.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center