WASHINGTON (AP) a" Public disapproval of President Barack Obamaas handling of health care has leaped to 52 percent, according to Associated Press-GfK poll that underscores the countryas glowering mood as the White House made a renewed pitch for an overhaul.
Just 42 percent approve of the presidentas 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 nationas $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 just 43 percent disapproved.
The poll was taken over five days just before Obamaas speech to Congress. That speech reflected Obamaas determination to push ahead despite growing obstacles.
aI will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that itas better politics to kill this plan than to improve it,a Obama said Wednesday night. aI wonat stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent whatas in the plan, weall call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution.a
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 yearas end wants Congress to send him legislation lowering health costs while covering millions of uninsured Americans. Besides near unanimous opposition from Republicans, the presidentas 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 Obamaas 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.
aHow in the world can anybody look at this and evaluate it and see if it makes effective change?a Kelly Hoots, 35, a pharmacist and independent from Weaverville, N.C., said of the health care legislation. aWho knows whatas in it?a
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.
aItas about timea for expanded health coverage, said Randy Yarborough, 56, a retired cabinetmaker and Democrat from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. aEverybody ought to have it. Anybody who says we canat afford it or we shouldnat have government health care, you need to wake up.a
There is a clear public desire for a bipartisan approach on health care. Eight in 10 say itas 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 canat win support from Republicans to pass a bill this year, they should keep trying until they get it.
Obamaas marks are also declining on the economy, with 52 percent saying they disapprove of how heas handled that issue. Just 46 percent disapproved in a July AP-GfK poll, and 35 percent disapproved in April.
About half disapprove of his handling of taxes, some of which may rise to help finance his health overhaul, and of unemployment, which has been on the rise. And 56 percent dislike his handling of the budget deficit, which has skyrocketed under the costs of the financial bailouts and a recession that has caused federal revenues to sink.
While 77 percent say health care is important to them, 92 percent said the same about the economy, more than any other issue in the AP-GfK poll. That suggests that despite Washingtonas focus on the health care struggle, few voters have taken their eyes off the recession.
aThey ought to scrap the whole thinga on health care, said Republican Wendy Sanders, 39, a homemaker from Kingsland, Ga. aPeople need jobs. Do that.a
The survey of 1,001 adults with cell and landline telephones was conducted from Sept. 3-8. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
AP polling director Trevor Tompson and news survey specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.