By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Support for President Barack Obama continues to decline, fueled in no small measure by an increase in the public's dissatisfaction over the progress of healthcare reform.
A poll released Tuesday by CBS News shows the decline to be continual, with 54 percent of the more than 1,200 adults surveyed saying they disapproved of the way in which Obama was handling healthcare. With only 36 percent now indicating their approval, those responding to the latest poll were 11 percent more dissatisfied with the president than they were in October of last year and 6 percent more dissatisfied than they were in December, when the poll was last conducted.
The marks given to Congress are even worse, with 57 percent of those surveyed registering thumbs down to the way the Democrats are handling the issue and 61 percent saying they disapproved of the Republicans' conduct on healthcare.
Of particular importance, from a political standpoint, is that the CBS poll fails to demonstrate that there is anything approaching a consensus that Obama and Congress are on the right track. "Only about one in five Americans thinks the reforms strike the right balance when it comes to expanding coverage, controlling costs and regulating insurance companies," the poll shows while the public remains divided "on whether the reforms go too far or not far enough in providing health coverage to as many Americans as possible."
It's an odd turn of events for something that was the Democrats' signature issue during the 2008 presidential campaign. Survey after survey led politicians in both parties to conclude that healthcare reform was something the American people were demanding but, as has been the case before, they clearly do not like what they are being offered.
Partly, the process is to blame. Rather than focus on maintaining, even improving, the quality of care available in the United States, the White House and the Democrats who control Congress have labored to produce a hodgepodge of reforms that threaten the continued existence of the system as we know it while providing little in the way of guarantees that the parts of the current system people like will not be adversely affected by the proposed reforms.
This last piece likely explains why so much of the healthcare negotiation has been conducted in secret and behind closed doors. Rather than wave the victory flag, the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are all behaving like, when it comes to healthcare, they have something to hide. Which no doubt explains why the public's support for reform is dropping like a stone. They will not buy what they cannot see.