Friday, September 18, 2009

Obama Gets an A, Cong. Dems an Incomplete

Back to school week was a good one for President Obama, but Congress still has some lessons to learn. After telling the nation’s schoolchildren to study hard, stay in school, get good grades, and be unwilling to accept failure, the President directed a very similar message to Congress as he lectured them on the need to pass health care reform in this session. The end result was a significant rise in Obama’s poll numbers. CNN
and Democracy Corps questioned voters before the president’s congressional address and then again immediately afterward. There is little doubt that Democrats are simply glad that the president is sounding like the man they put in the White House last November.
CNN found that three-quarters (77%) of those who watched the speech had a positive reaction to it overall, with 56% being very positive. Nearly as many (72%) believed that Obama clearly stated the goals for his health care plan in his speech. After the address, 70% believed that Barack Obama’s policies would move the country in the right direction as compared with 60% who felt that way before. Most important, the number favoring the president’s health care reform plan rose sharply to 67% from 53%.
The Democracy Corps used electronic dials to gauge the perceptions of 50 “independent and weak partisan” voters in Denver before, during, and immediately after President Obama’s speech. Those who participated in the Democracy Corps research were about evenly divided among those who initially supported and opposed the president’s health care reform plan and McCain and Obama voters. Among these swing voters, support for Obama’s plan rose 20 points (from 46% before the address to 66% after). Moreover, attitudes toward specific aspects of the plan improved sharply following the address.

Health Care Reform Description:Agree Pre-SpeechDisagree Pre-SpeechAgree Post-SpeechDisagree Post-SpeechChange
Will get health care costs under control 42% 46% 64% 36% +22
Allows you to keep your current insurance and doctor if you choose 54% 32% 80% 18% +26
Will increase competition and lower prices for health care 44% 42% 74% 24% +30
Will give individuals and families more choice and control 36% 58% 60% 36% +24
Government-run health care 60% 32% 46% 54% -14
Will increase the deficit and raise taxes 62% 26% 40% 44% -22
Will hurt seniors by cutting Medicare 40% 32% 20% 66% -20

But the biggest jump in Barack Obama’s poll ratings came in the Daily Kos weekly tracking survey.
In just one week, the president’s overall favorable to unfavorable margin improved by eight percentage points (favorable up 4 points and unfavorable down 4). Obama’s favorable marks week-to-week improved in virtually every demographic and political group except among Republicans. However, the biggest gains came within Democratic core groups including Millennials (young people born 1982-2003), Latinos, residents of the Northeast, and Democratic identifiers. This suggests that, after a period of drift during the summer, what President Obama said last week, especially in his health care reform address, reinforced his base.

Total electorate 52% 56% +4
Male 44% 50% +6
Female 60% 62% +2
18-29 74% 80% +6
30-44 42% 44% +2
45-59 58% 64% +6
60+ 40% 42% +2
Party ID
Democrat 77% 85% +8
Republican 4% 4%
Independent 57% 60% +3
Northeast 76% 83% +7
South 26% 28% +2
Midwest 59% 63% +4
West 56% 60% +4

Unfortunately, President Obama’s Democratic colleagues in Congress did not share in the week’s polling upswing. The Daily Kos survey indicates that the favorable ratings of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and congressional Democrats overall were essentially unchanged during a week in which the president registered significant gains. Perhaps it is for this reason that GOP consultants are telling Republican candidates to attack congressional Democrats, rather than President Obama, in the 2010-midterm elections.
It seems clear that the public, even the Democratic base, is taking a wait and see attitude about inside-the-Beltway Democrats other than President Obama. The coming months will determine whether or not the Democratic majority in Congress is prepared to do the job that it was sent to Washington to do and, among other things, at long last enact meaningful health care reform. This week’s polling numbers suggest that would not only be good for America, but also for congressional Democrats. Let’s hope they’re paying attention to Obama’s message.