Thursday, June 18, 2009

Highlights of the NBC/WSJ Poll

*** The Return Of Ross Perot? Ross Perot has now become a political afterthought -- especially after his two presidential defeats and his disastrous NAFTA debate performance against Al Gore -- but the cause that he once championed seems to be making a comeback: balancing the budget. In our new NBC/WSJ poll, nearly six in 10 respondents say the government should worry more about keeping the deficit down, even if that means the economy recovers more slowly. The latest New York Times/CBS poll has a similar result, with 60% believing the Obama administration doesn't have a plan to deal with deficit. What's more, self-identified independents, the same people Perot once appealed to, aren't as supportive of Obama. In our NBC/WSJ survey, 46% of independents approve of Obama's job, which is down from 60% in April, and that's the primary reason why the president's overall job rating has declined five points to 56%. The deficit, however, isn't the only problematic issue for Obama. Almost seven in 10 have serious reservations about the government's ownership of GM, and 52% oppose closing Gitmo. As one of us said on NBC's Nightly News last night, Obama is now dealing with a public that's judging him more for his actions than the promises he has made.

*** Blaming The GOP: But that's the bad news for Obama and the Democrats. The good news, according to our poll, is that the president is still personally popular: his fav/unfav is 60%-29%, and three-quarters like him, including 27% who don't agree with his policies. In addition, the public doesn't blame Obama for the deficit or the economy -- that honor instead goes to the previous Republican administration. Asked who is more responsible for the size of the deficit, 46% cited Bush, 21% said the Democrats in Congress, 7% said the Republicans in Congress, and just 6% said Obama. Moreover, 72% believe the current state of the economy is something the president inherited. Indeed, the Republican Party finds itself at all-time lows in our poll (25% positive rating) and in the NYT/CBS one (28%). And that brings up this question: If the public is really serious about the deficit, does it turn to a Perot-like figure instead of the GOP?

*** Good News And Bad News On Health Care: On the subject of health care, there's good news for both Democrats and Republicans in our poll. More than three-quarters believe it's important for Americans to have a choice between a public/government insurance plan and a private one. But if a government-run option is established, 47% of those who hold private insurance say it's "very" or "somewhat" likely their employer would drop their plans. As Bill McInturff, the GOP half our NBC/WSJ poll, puts it: "It's hard to change the status quo when you have people who have been well served by the status quo." What is clear is that Americans aren't big fans of having their health-care benefits taxed: 59% oppose taxing those with generous health benefits, while 70% oppose taxing everyone's health benefits. Over to you, Max Baucus.

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