CROSSTABS OFFER THE WHITE HOUSE GUIDANCE…. We talked earlier about the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, which shows President Obama’s approval rating staying strong, but a drop off in support for health care reform and the president’s handling of the issue.

Specifically, the poll showed 46% of Americans approving of Obama on health care, with 50% disapproving. In general, this isn’t an especially helpful measurement — it’s too broad. The group that rejects the president’s handling of the issue includes ardent supporters of single-payer, those who like the Democratic approach but don’t like Obama’s political strategy, Tea Baggers who think reform is tantamount to the Nazi Holocaust, etc. Simple “disapproval” lumps together people who may strongly disagree with one another.

More important is who is shifting from support to disapproval. Greg Sargent talked to WaPo polling analyst Jennifer Agiesta, who found in the crosstabs that the White House is slipping with its base.

The numbers tell the story: In three key cases where Obama has dropped significantly, he’s also dropped by sizable margins among Dems and liberals. Let’s take the major findings driving the discussion today, and compare them with his drop among Dems and libs.

The president’s slip isn’t entirely the result of frustrated liberals and Democrats, but their aggravation is clearly having an effect. The number of liberals who are confident that Obama will make the right decision, for example, has dropped from 90% to 78%. Liberals who approve of the president’s handling of health care has dropped from 81% to 70%.

These almost certainly aren’t people expressing disapproval because they’re watching Fox News or buying into McCaughey’s lies — these are progressive supporters who disapprove of unhelpful concessions to conservatives and overly-cautious centrists.

I can imagine that some of the president’s aides may find this dynamic frustrating. Some on the right think Obama is too far to the left. Some on the left think Obama is too far to the right.

That said, if the White House political office wants to see these numbers improve, these poll results offer a pretty big hint. It’s not complicated — take a firm stand in support of the already-articulated principles, stand up to obstructionist Republicans, and tell centrists that the days of slow-walking reform are over.

Get a good bill through Congress, and the polls will look far more encouraging for the administration. This isn’t rocket science.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.