Demonstrating the media never tire in coming up with new rationales to tout President Barack Obama's popularity, ABC led Monday night with a poll timed to the night before Tuesday's nine-month mark of the Obama presidency -- as if that's some kind of important anniversary, and spent as much time on how it found record low affinity for Republicans. Anchor Charles Gibson announced “the President has a 57 percent approval rating, his rating rising for the first time since April. And only 20 percent of the country now consider themselves Republican. That is the lowest level of support in 26 years.”
In “perhaps the biggest surprise,” Gibson suggested, “57 percent support one of the [health] plan's most controversial elements -- perhaps the most controversial -- a government-sponsored insurance option,” though “fewer than half those polled agree with” Obama on health care as “45 percent approve of his plans for health care reform, 48 percent opposed.”
Emphasizing Obama's popularity compared to the GOP, George Stephanopoulos relayed how “we asked Americans 'who do you trust to make the right decisions for the country's future?' 49 percent said President Obama, only 19 percent said Republicans in Congress.” Stephanopoulos also contended “one of the most interesting numbers in the poll, Charlie, the President's highest ratings on how he's handled his responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief: 57 percent.”
Most recognize ObamaCare will lead to bigger deficits, a finding Gibson and Stephanopoulos didn't highlight. Question 16 is the PDF of the poll: “Do you think health care reform would increase the federal budget deficit, decrease it, or have no effect?” Increase, replied 68 percent compared to a mere ten percent who believe it will decrease the deficit. Of those who foresee a rise, more said it's not worth it (37 percent) than worth it (31 percent.)
From the top of the Monday, October 19 World News on ABC:
CHARLES GIBSON: Good evening. Tomorrow marks the nine-month anniversary for the Barack Obama presidency. He has spent the last four months primarily making the case for health care reform. According to the latest ABC/Washington Post poll released tonight, fewer than half those polled agree with him: 45 percent approve of his plans for health care reform, 48 percent opposed.
But perhaps the biggest surprise, 57 percent support one of the plan's most controversial elements -- perhaps the most controversial -- a government-sponsored insurance option. Other findings: The President has a 57 percent approval rating, his rating rising for the first time since April. And only 20 percent of the country now consider themselves Republican. That is the lowest level of support in 26 years.
So George Stephanopoulos is with us tonight. George, a couple of things surprise me out of this, the public option in particular. More favor the public option, public insurance, government insurance plan, than favor health care reform itself?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: It's really surprising, Charlie, that's exactly right. What's ironic about this is, it may not make the job of the White House and Senate Democrat leaders any easier, they still don't have 60 votes in the Senate for this public health insurance option and these poll numbers are likely to energize supporters of the option without moving the centrist Senators who are opposed to it.
GIBSON: In other words, it deepens the divide over public option?
GIBSON: And they don't think they have the votes in the Senate any which way?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not right now, Charlie, no they don't.
GIBSON: And the Republican support level being so low.
STEPHANOPOULOS: 26-year low, Charlie. This is a huge problem, especially when you compare it to President Obama. Look at this number, we asked Americans “who do you trust to make the right decisions for the country's future?” 49 percent said President Obama, only 19 percent said Republicans in Congress. Now, Republicans in Congress say they're still dealing with an overhang of the Bush years, but they also know that they have to get beyond this “party of no” label.
GIBSON: And something else that surprised me a little but, the personal popularity of the President doesn't carry over much on domestic issues but seems to on foreign policy issues.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the most interesting numbers in the poll, Charlie, the President's highest ratings on how he's handled his responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief: 57 percent of Americans approve of the way he's handling the responsibilities in Commander-in-Chief. Now the big question going forward is: Will those numbers survive the decision on sending troops to Afghanistan which could come in the next couple of weeks?
GIBSON: Alright, George Stephanopoulos, thanks very much.