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Poll shows little support for Senate GOP health bill, even among Republicans

June 28, 2017 at 6:40 PM EDT
Most Americans disapprove of the GOP's handling of health care. That's according to a new NewsHour poll, in partnership with the Marist Institute for Public Opinion and NPR, that looks at Americans' opinions on President Trump, health care, the economy and more. Judy Woodruff examines the results with Lee Miringoff of Marist and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The NewsHour, in partnership with the Marist Institute for Public Opinion and NPR, is out with a new poll that looks at Americans’ opinions on President Trump, health care, the economy and more.

Joining me now to dig into the results are Lee Miringoff of Marist and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

Welcome to both of you.

Lee, I’m going to start with you.

Let’s look at one of the questions, first, about the Republican health care plan …

LEE MIRINGOFF, Marist Institute for Public Opinion: Sure.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … in the Senate. This is the plan the president is pushing for. You asked people their assessment of the Senate plan. What did you find?

LEE MIRINGOFF: Well, it was very poor in terms of public opinion.

And what’s fascinating in the numbers is even a plurality of Republicans around the nation are unsure on terms of the Senate health care plan. So the Republicans took a very big risk going forward with something when they didn’t even have their core following solidly behind them. And I think the proof is in the results.

The Democrats, obviously, were opposed. Independents have been scurrying away from the Republicans and questioning President Trump and Republicans in Congress in greater numbers. So, as far as the health care proposal is concerned, it clearly didn’t have the kind of support that you would want to go forward with if you’re trying to make such a major change.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Just to quickly go over the numbers, approval overall, 17 percent of the Senate plan, disapproval, 55 percent. And then when you ask people if they approved of the way Republicans in Congress are handling health care, it was 21 percent approval, 65 percent disapproval.

Amy, what does all this tell you?

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Yes.

Well, Lee makes a very good point that, even among Republicans, there’s not a tremendous amount of support, not only for the bill, but for the way that Republicans in Congress are handling it.

I think a very small plurality of Republicans said they like the job that Republicans in Congress are doing on this. Quite frankly, Republicans have not done a very good job shaping and defining this bill. It’s being defined by what it isn’t as much as by what it is. And that’s pretty clear in the polling data that we’re seeing here.

The other interesting thing that I found in this poll was that, when they asked the question about who would you blame if this all falls apart, if there’s no repeal of Obamacare, and most Americans — this is true of Democrat, Republican, independent — they don’t blame Donald Trump. They either blame Republicans — independents and Democrats say they would blame Republicans in Congress.

Republicans say they blame Democrats mostly. But Trump gets very little blame.

LEE MIRINGOFF: What is really interesting is that although Obamacare really doesn’t have a champion right now, most of the talk has been how to replace and repeal, it remains popular with Americans.

And I think — so the Republican proposal not only wasn’t well-organized. It really flew in the face of what public opinion is, so really going uphill on this. And I think that’s why they have had such a difficult time with it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lee, you also asked the generic question, what do people think of the job the president is doing?

And I think, not surprising, along party lines, a large majority of Republicans like what he’s doing. A large majority of Democrats dislike it, but among independents, some interesting, interesting results.

LEE MIRINGOFF: Yes, and the independents are the group, of course, in the middle. And, you know, they’re much more like Democrats right now than Republicans in terms of their attitude.

And they have grown in their disapproval of President Trump since the first poll right after he took office. And now almost 60 percent of independents have a negative view of him. And those numbers have gone up, the negative numbers have.

So there’s a real question on their part about the direction the country is going in and a lot of other concerns that they have on an issue-by-issue basis, health care being one, but others of concern to independents as well.

They were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt initially, but that has certainly evaporated, and whatever political capital he had with this group, that’s been well spent — or it has been spent, I should say.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy, what do you see in these numbers, especially among independents?

AMY WALTER: Yes, Lee framed it perfectly, which is whatever benefit of the doubt they may be giving — they may have been giving the president in January, and it was a very thin benefit, it’s been dried up pretty well by now.

But you’re also looking, if you just think historically or look historically, at what it means to have support for independents this low, and if you look at the last midterm elections where a president had low approval ratings with independents at this number, somewhere between 30 percent, 35 percent approval rating among independents, they went on to lose a very large number of seats in that midterm election.

And that really could be the tipping point for a lot of these Republicans, too, who are up in 2018. They may sit in districts that a Republican carried or that are Republican-leaning, but they count on independents coming over and supporting the Republican in the November election.

If those independents are feeling dissatisfied or they’re feeling dispirited, or, quite frankly, they’re feeling angry — that’s the other important thing to note about this poll. It’s not just that independents felt like they didn’t approve of Donald Trump. Their strong disapproval ratings of Donald Trump are somewhere — for President Trump — are somewhere in the 40 percent range vs. just I think it’s in the teens that strongly support him.

So that intensity of disapproval is a real — should be a real warning sign for all Republicans, especially those who are up in 2018.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quickly, Lee, you also asked a question I hadn’t seen before, and that was comparing who is a more effective leader, President Trump or former President Obama? Thirty-four percent President Trump, 58 percent President Obama.

I guess that mirrors overall support for this president.

LEE MIRINGOFF: Yes.

Look, and former presidents always look do better after they have completed their term in office, but at this point in President Obama’s administration in ’09, his numbers were in the mid-50s. Contrast that with the low to mid-30s with Donald Trump, and you see the answer to the question, why is this president having such a difficult time in the court of public opinion?

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, fascinating numbers. There’s more there. I know everybody will want to dig in. You can find it all on our Web site.

In the meantime, Lee Miringoff of Marist, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, thank you both.

AMY WALTER: You’re welcome.

LEE MIRINGOFF: Thank you, Judy.

The NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll surveyed 1,205 adults from June 21-25 contacted by live interviewers using a mix of landline and mobile numbers. There is a 2.8-percentage point margin of error. A sub-sample of 995 registered voters were also surveyed, with a 3.1-percentage point margin of error. Read more about our methods here.

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