Health care drives poll numbers down

HEALTH CARE DRIVES POLL NUMBERS DOWN…. A new CBS News poll shows President Obama’s approval rating dipping below the 50% threshold — to 46% — but it’s not terrorist-related hyperventilating that’s pushing the numbers down, it’s concerns about the economy and health care reform.

But as is often the case with polls from recent months, Republicans still aren’t capitalizing.

Much of the CBS poll was devoted to questions about health care reform, and the public’s apprehension about the state of the debate. The issue has taken its toll on the president’s support — whereas 47% of the public supported Obama’s handling of the issue in October, the number is down to just 36% now. At this point, it’s the president’s weakest issue — his support on counter-terrorism is 14 points higher than his support on health care.

But before Republicans get too excited, there’s one detail to keep in mind: the public has soured on Democratic leaders’ handling of health care, but Americans really don’t like how the GOP has handled the issue. The breakdown on health care looks like this (pdf):

* President Obama — 36% approve, 54% disapprove

* Congressional Democrats — 29% approve, 57% disapprove

* Congressional Republicans — 24% approve, 61% disapprove

Dems have seen their support deteriorate, but it’s not even close to looking like a winning issue for the GOP.

Also note, in terms of public dissatisfaction, conservative opponents of the reform legislation argue that the Democratic proposal is too extreme and radical for the American mainstream. But in this poll, a plurality believes the reform plan doesn’t go far enough in covering Americans and regulating private health insurers.

Again, this is hardly evidence of a conservative backlash to the Dems’ signature domestic policy priority.