Health care reform: Obama’s ‘best’ and ‘worst’ achievement

Chris Moody Contributor
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With his first term nearing the halfway point this month, Americans are split on whether they approve of President Obama’s job performance, but support for the president has risen steadily since the November elections, a new poll shows.

Obama has a 48 percent approval rating, up from 44 percent in November, according to a national survey by Quinnipiac University. Two months ago, nearly half of those polled disapproved of the president’s job.

Health care reform, arguably Obama’s landmark achievement, is the most dividing piece of legislation. When provided a list of 17 laws the president spearheaded over the past few years, more than a quarter said the health care law was both the “best” and the “worst” thing Obama has done during his presidency.

“When they think about Barack Obama, health care is what they’re thinking about,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

The driving force behind Obama’s popularity is his persona, the survey suggested, and not his policy ideas. Almost three out of four voters like him personally, but slightly less than half don’t like his policies. A full 63 percent said they find the president “honest and trustworthy.”

“Americans like him a lot more than they like his policies,” Brown said.

When compared to approval ratings of past presidents at the same point of their first term, Obama fares well, although a look back suggests that mid-term polls say little about a president’s re-election chances. It is too early to measure the impact Obama’s approval ratings will have on his re-election bid in 2012, said Brown.

According to the Gallup Institute, Ronald Reagan suffered from a 37 percent approval rating halfway through his first term but smashed Democrat Walter Mondale in 1984. George H.W. Bush enjoyed a 58 percent approval rating at this time but lost miserably to Bill Clinton in 1992.

“It shows you what mid-term job approvals can mean,” Brown said. “A lot can change.” In Obama’s case, “he doesn’t have an advantage looking at 2012; he doesn’t have a disadvantage. He’s basically in the middle.”

As for those “Miss Me Yet?” t-shirts featuring George W. Bush that are reportedly selling like hotcakes around the country, the survey showed that a minority — only 30 percent — would actually say, “Yes.” Forty-six percent say Obama has done a better job than his predecessor.

The poll, which was taken from Jan. 4-11, did not take into account the potential impact of last weekend’s shooting in Tucson, Arizona, which could alter the public’s image of the president. Quinnipiac will release more data later this week that could show whether the events in Arizona changed the president’s approval rating.

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