Public opinion pollster Scott Rasmussen tells Newsmax that opposition to President Barack Obama's healthcare reform plan is "weighing down" his job approval rating — which is now at an all-time low.
Rasmussen also declared that if the economy does not improve over the next year, Obama's approval numbers will deteriorate even further and Democrats will suffer in the 2010 elections.
Rasmussen is founder and CEO of Rasmussen Reports and co-founder of the sports network ESPN. He has been an independent public opinion pollster for over a decade, and most major news organizations cite his reports.
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Newsmax.TV's Kathleen Walter asked Rasmussen about the latest poll results on Obama and his healthcare reform plan.
"The healthcare issue you can look at in one of two ways," he said.
"The good news for the president is that support for the plan has stopped falling. The bad news is most Americans are opposed.
"Adding to the troubles for the administration is that people who have strong opinions are even more likely to be opposed. Just 23 percent of Americans strongly support the proposed healthcare reform legislation, and 43 percent are strongly opposed.
"This is weighing down the president's job approval rating. As of Monday morning he's at the lowest level yet — just 46 percent of all Americans say they approve of the way he's doing his job."
The decline in Obama's approval ratings "began in a noticeable way around the Fourth of July when some employment numbers came out that were less favorable than expected, and people began to have some doubts about the economy," Rasmussen added.
"Always there's a correlation between a president's approval and economic performance. The healthcare debate, however, seemed to capture a lot of frustration that has been building among the American people, and it's more than about healthcare.
"People were upset a year ago when the Bush administration pushed through bailouts when the American public overwhelmingly opposed them. People opposed the bailouts when they continued in the Obama [administration]. They continued to oppose things like the takeover of General Motors and Chrysler. They don’t think the stimulus package worked very well. Taxpayers didn't like the cash for clunkers program.
"Finally when they healthcare legislation came in time for the August recess, people were just saying: Somebody's got to listen to us. And the president is suffering as a result."
Walter asked how Obama's approval numbers will impact the fate of healthcare reform.
"Certainly the better a president's ratings are, the better his ability to push legislation through, and that's especially true if you think about some of the more nervous members of his own party," Rasmussen said.
"There's a number of blue dog Democrats in the House who probably don't want to be mentioning the president in their re-election campaigns at this point in time...
"Right now the president seems to have a choice. He can scale back greatly his healthcare reform ambitions, move to a more centrist approach, work on some more modest reforms that would drive down the cost of healthcare. If he did that, his numbers might be a little stronger among those in the political center, but his base would be very unhappy.
"On the other hand, Democrats are the only group right now strongly supporting healthcare reform, and if the president tries to satisfy his base by pushing for an aggressive plan, then he's likely to alienate a lot of people in the center. That is going to cause problems for Democrats in 2010."
Asked if Obama is likely to see a rise in his approval numbers in the coming months, or a continuing decline, Rasmussen said:
"If the economy continues to struggle as we head into the 2010 elections, with unemployment above 10 percent, and General Motors is back asking for more bailout money and is losing market share, then the president's numbers will be quite a bit lower and the president's party will suffer in the midterm elections."
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