Obama's Poll Numbers on Health Care Stop Nosediving

Published August 28, 2009

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This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 27, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Support for the president's health care plan has stopped taking a nosedive. Well, White House should not blow up the balloons yet. The news isn't all good. Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, is right here with the latest numbers. Scott, what are the latest numbers for the president on this?

SCOTT RASMUSSEN, RASMUSSEN REPORTS: Well, 43 percent favor the plan, 53 percent are opposed. That hasn't changed much during the month of August. The really bad news for the White House, the people who are feeling strongly about this bill are far more likely to be opposed -- 43 percent of Americans strongly oppose it, just 23 percent strongly support it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, let me put the good spin on it. The president's plan has taken quite a beating over the last couple weeks with these town halls. You know, people have been pounding (ph) it (ph), citizens getting -- going and speaking up. Do you -- I mean, I know that you're the numbers guy, but you know, it's sort of interesting, at least, I think, that it's in a holding pattern.

RASMUSSEN: Well, the reason it's in a holding pattern is because, really, the support was falling before all of these town halls. The frustration that's bubbled over in the town halls is partly because of the health care bill. It's partly because of bail-outs. It's partly because only 22 percent of Americans believe that Congress has a good understanding of the health care legislation. They just don't think they know what's in the bill.

And so right now, the beating up that you described the president's been taking has not changed the numbers on health care, it's just made it more visible. What has been sliding a little bit, the president's numbers overall and his job approval.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, what about the question about whether or not people believe that the quality of care would be better under the proposal?

RASMUSSEN: Well, this is -- yes, this gets right to the core issues, 50 percent of Americans believe the quality of care will go down if this is passed, 52 percent believe the costs will go up. Those are exactly the wrong direction from what the president is promising, and that's where this skepticism lies.

And Greta, I can't overstate enough, this is not just because people are sitting home, reading the bill. It's a general frustration with the process. It's a general frustration with government. By a 2-to-1 margin, the American people believe that no matter how bad things are, Congress could always make it worse.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about cost? Because people certainly are worried - - with all the unemployment, they're worried about the cost of health care, as well.

RASMUSSEN: Well, and that's -- that's the big -- it's one of the big things here. They -- when they hear about health care reform, what the American people want is the cost to go down. Only 17 percent think that this legislation will actually reduce the cost of health care. So the president has a long way to go if he wants to sell that.

Now, as you've said, the numbers aren't falling anymore. These numbers have been virtually identical for about a month. What we also see is the partisan shape is very strong and very stable. Democrats overwhelmingly support this plan. Republicans -- 87 percent of Republicans are opposed to it. And most unaffiliateds are opposed to it, as well. Those things have not changed.

That puts the president in a tough bind. He can either try to satisfy his base and risk offending some of the people in the middle, or he can move to the middle and offend some of the people in his base.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you say that it's been pretty stable for about a month. Well, the Congress (INAUDIBLE) come back from recess soon and we're going to go back to debating it here in Washington. And of course, Senator Kennedy died, who was the champion of trying to get health care passed. When do you do your next round of polls on these questions so we can get some other read?

RASMUSSEN: Well, we'll be back with these exact same questions in two weeks. We'll be asking some other questions on the topic over next week. So we'll get a sense of where things are heading at that time.

VAN SUSTEREN: Scott, thank you, as always.

RASMUSSEN: Thank you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Dick Morris, author of "Catastrophe," joins us from Stamford, Connecticut. Good evening, Dick. These numbers I guess, you know, in a holding pattern. Depends on -- I mean, it's really half empty or half full. He's in a holding pattern. It's not sinking, the numbers for his proposal, the president's -- how do you read these numbers?

DICK MORRIS, DICKMORRIS.COM: Well, he got 52 percent of the vote and he's getting 43 percent approval of this health care package, his signature piece of legislation. So a quarter -- or a fifth, I guess, of the people that voted for him are jumping ship on it. That's bad news for him.

But I think that there are two points that are more important than that. The first is among the elderly, who are the core group affected by this -- after all, most elderly are -- most of the sick people are elderly, or vastly disproportionately. I think the elderly are 12 percent of our population, and they consume 40 percent of our health care spending. And they are opposed to it by almost 20 points. And the strong approval, strong disapproval among the elderly is overwhelmingly a strong disapproval.

Now, they are the core of the Democratic base in this country. The Democratic Party cannot win without the support of senior citizens, and they've given it to them ever since Medicare was passed and Social Security.

The second thing I think is that I think there's been a new front opened in opposition to this bill, which is not only within the health care issue, like we talk about in my book, "Catastrophe" and the defects of it in that sense, but in a broader sense. When Senator Lieberman spoke on Sunday and he said, OK, it's not a bad bill but not now, not in the middle of a recession, not when we have almost a $2 trillion budget deficit and we're looking at $9 trillion more over the course of the decade -- phase it in, be incremental about it, a step at a time. Don't try to do it now.

And I think that that combines the worry that the Americans have about this bill with the worries they have about the deficit, government spending and the -- and taxation. I And think that when you combine all of it, you really are talking about a formula that is going to force Obama into a retreat on this bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it would be fascinating, if we could ever run those same questions -- obviously, anonymously -- on the Congress and the Senate, to see, you know -- you know, where they personally stand on it because they all have political considerations and they've also got to worry about constituents, but genuinely, you know, how they feel about it both, you know, intellectually and almost, you know, from a sense of -- of passion.

MORRIS: Well, a lot of these congressmen have to balance between the threat of a primary if they abandon health care reform and the threat of losing the general election if they embrace it. That's kind of the equivalent of what Scott was talking about, about your base or the general election.

But you know, there's something that has just come to my attention that is absolutely extraordinary. I did not realize this, but CBS News reports that section 431A of this bill says that the IRS must divulge to the health choices commissioner that this bill creates all taxpayer identity information, filing status, income, dependents, and any other information the commissioner wants. So -- and not only to the commissioner but to every state health commissioner.

And it also says in 1801A that the Social Security Administration can ask for anybody's tax return, or everybody's, even if they haven't applied for any subsidy, because they need to troll through them to see who might be eligible. This totally eliminates the idea of tax privacy.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, not only that, you would think that the most liberal part of the Democratic Party -- you know, I can't imagine Senator Feingold, for instance, from Wisconsin, my home state, who -- you know, who's such -- he's so strong on civil liberties...

MORRIS: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... that he would ever want that type of information -- must be disclosed -- I can't imagine that he would even go for that.

MORRIS: And you know, there's been a long tradition in privacy legislation that you can require individuals to disclose to an agency, but you cannot require an agency to disclose individual information to another agency. It's got to go through the individual first, through the private citizen. This mandates that the IRS literally ship over all of its tax returns to 50 state administrators and the health administrator and the Social Security administrator. It's really the equivalent of publishing your tax returns in "The Congressional Record." It's unbelievable!

VAN SUSTEREN: I think it's going to go over like a lead balloon as people dig deeper into this. But we're going to have a lot of discussion about this -- this bill in the next couple weeks.


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