PRINCETON, NJ -- As the debate over healthcare reform intensifies, the latest USA Today/Gallup poll finds that more Americans disapprove (50%) than approve (44%) of the way U.S. President Barack Obama is handling healthcare policy. There is a tremendous partisan gap in these views, with 74% of Democrats but only 11% of Republicans approving. Independents are more likely to disapprove than to approve of Obama's work on healthcare.
The president will attempt to regain the momentum in the healthcare reform debate, and perhaps to raise his standing on the issue, in a nationally televised press conference on Wednesday evening. He had set a deadline for Congress to pass reform legislation before its August recess, but that seems unlikely, and some in Congress are pushing for more time to consider legislation.
Obama's marks on healthcare are among the lowest of seven issues tested in the July 17-19 poll, better than only his rating for handling the federal budget deficit. He generally receives higher ratings on international issues than on domestic ones, with majority approval on all three matters relating to foreign policy. Americans are about equally divided on his handling of the economy, easily the top issue in the minds of the public.
Obama's ratings on the economy have declined over the course of the year, from 59% approval in February to 47% in the current poll. Most of this decline has occurred since late May, perhaps due to continued rising unemployment and some concern about the slow pace of spending from the economic stimulus package passed earlier this year.
Obama's approval ratings for handling the federal budget deficit have also fallen in recent weeks, from 46% in late May to 41% in the current poll. Now, a majority of 55% of Americans disapprove of his handling of this issue.
Underscoring the deficit as an area of weakness for the president, a separate question in the poll finds 59% of Americans saying Obama's proposals to address the problems facing the country call for too much spending. Only 27% say he is spending the right amount to tackle the nation's problems.
While Obama's ratings for domestic issues are generally below the majority level and falling, his rating for handling foreign affairs (57%) is little changed since May, when 59% approved, and down only slightly from 61% in March. His disapproval rating on this issue has, however, climbed as the percentage having no opinion has dropped. But a majority of Americans continue to give him a favorable review for handling international matters.
Obama has decided to expend a significant amount of political capital to get healthcare reform passed, and its passage is far from certain. In a Monday television interview, he remarked that his lower approval ratings reflect that his administration is doing hard work. And while his ratings on healthcare and some other issues are generally weak, his overall approval ratings remain comfortably above the majority level -- though they, too, are showing evidence of decline in recent weeks.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,006 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 17-19, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.