Poll: Obama's standing among Floridians hurt by handling of health care debate

TALLAHASSEE — President Barack Obama's trustworthiness and job-approval numbers have started to flat-line in Florida over his handling of health care, according to a new poll.

Floridians also appear more concerned about higher taxes and deficits than they are about a health plan passing Congress, and by big margins they support the town-hall protests against Obama's health care reform plan, the new Quinnipiac University poll of 1,136 registered voters shows.

For the first time in Florida, slightly more people disapprove of Obama's job performance than support it.

The split: 48 to 47 percent. Though that's well within the poll's error margin, it's a significant shift since June, when 58 percent of Floridians favored Obama's job performance in a Quinnipiac poll. Out of the five states Quinnipiac regularly polls, Florida is the first state to pan Obama's job performance.

By a large 71-23 percent margin, the poll shows, Floridians don't believe Obama's promise that his health plan won't add to the deficit.

"People were willing to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt. No longer,'' said Peter A. Brown, director of the Connecticut-based university's polling institute.

"Now there's not only more skepticism about the president,'' Brown said, "there's almost hostility.''

Voters believe Obama's health plan will hurt the economy, raise taxes, increase health care costs and hurt the quality of health care they receive. Aside from Republicans strongly united against Obama and independents turning away from him, those earning more than $100,000 were more inclined to oppose the president and his policies.

Voters said they trusted Obama on health care almost as much as congressional Republicans, who have mainly offered criticisms of Obama's plan rather than a proposal of their own.

Still, voters like Obama personally by 51-44 percent. And they support taxing those who earn more than $350,000 to pay for more health care, subsidizing health care for the less wealthy and forcing businesses to provide health insurance.

Government-run health care isn't anathema, either. About 58 percent support it, while 34 percent are opposed. But Obama might be backing off that very option.

About 15 percent of poll respondents already receive government-run insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. Overall, 87 percent of those polled said they had insurance — a big number that suggests a high number of Floridians don't see lack of coverage as a crisis.

Though Quinnipiac didn't survey the top concern of Floridians, a poll this week from the Florida Chamber of Commerce showed that health care ranked third in importance behind education and the economy, the top concern.

By a 46-42 percent spread, voters say Obama's policies will help the economy in the future, but 39 percent say their personal finances will be hurt by his plans. About 33 percent say his economic plans will help them. And 25 percent are undecided.

About 55 percent of voters say they support the protests against Obama's plan, with only 35 percent opposed to the protests, some of which have been portrayed on television as shout-fests. By 79-14 percent, voters say the protests are not "un-American.''

"Voters approve of the demonstrations and they overwhelmingly disagree with the view expressed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that these protests are un-American,'' Brown said.

It's not really clear, however, if Pelosi actually called the protests themselves "un-American.'' Though Republicans have attributed the statement to the speaker, what she and House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer wrote in a USA Today op-ed Aug. 10 was that "drowning out opposing views is simply un-American.''

The headline on the op-ed: 'Un-American' attacks can't derail health care debate.'

Poll: Obama's standing among Floridians hurt by handling of health care debate 08/20/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 20, 2009 2:51pm]

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