Drooping polls undercut scripted protest claims

From today’s Washington Times (click here for the full article):


Drooping polls undercut scripted protest claim

The White House’s claim that large and boisterous protests against health care reform over the past week have been scripted performances, underwritten by industry lobbyists and the Republican Party, continues to run into a stubborn reality check: public polling on the matter.

For more than two weeks, polls have consistently shown growing resistance to President Obama’s reform proposals, largely because of concerns about the nation’s deficit and debt.

"There are a number of statistically valid public opinion polls that show that there has been a dramatic increase in public concern about escalating deficits and debt levels and our nation’s increased reliance on foreign lenders," said David Walker, the nation’s former comptroller general…

…A majority, 57 percent, said health care reform should be abandoned if it will "significantly" add to the deficit. Mr. Obama has promised that any reform will not add to the budget imbalance, but 72 percent of the registered voters surveyed by Quinnipiac said they did not think Mr. Obama would be able to deliver on that vow.

A National Public Radio poll of 850 likely voters in late July showed that 48 percent thought the president’s policies have increased the federal deficit and done little to slow job loss, while 45 percent said Mr. Obama has blunted the recession and set a foundation for recovery. The poll also showed 47 percent opposition to the Obama health care reforms in Congress, with 42 percent support.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll of 1,011 adults on July 30 showed that 42 percent thought the current health care reforms were a bad idea, while 36 percent thought them a good idea. More surprisingly, Republicans in Congress were more trusted to fix the budget deficit by a 31 percent to 25 percent margin, a drastic turnaround from January, when Democrats held the edge by a margin of 42 percent to 20 percent…

…The White House at first responded to the poll numbers by claiming that Americans were being influenced by "misinformation." At one point in the middle of last week, an anonymous White House official told Politico that "poll numbers now, for health care, are up."

When asked by The Washington Times to verify that latter statement, however, no one in the White House communications office would own up to the quote or defend it.

But as protests erupted a week ago and spilled onto the Internet via YouTube and the Drudge Report, the administration took a new tack. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called the now-visible opposition "manufactured anger."

The Democratic National Committee piled on, calling the protesters "mobs" and even saying they were being "bused in" to events by "by well-funded, highly organized groups run by Republican operatives and funded by the special interests."

Brad Woodhouse, the DNC spokesman who made those accusations, said in an e-mail exchange that the evidence of protesters being bussed in came from "anecdotal reports" along with eyewitness accounts from some at an Aug. 2 forum in Philadelphia. The accounts said people saw buses from North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

On Friday, the White House political arm Organizing for America sent a video to its 13 million or so supporters in which OFA Director Mitch Stewart said that town-hall protesters are "trying to drown out public discourse and legitimate conversation on this issue."…

…But Mr. Walker, the former comptroller, said the dissatisfaction being expressed was not a minority view but rather a reaction to the government’s arrogance, pointing to the polls as quantifiable evidence.

"What’s going on is there is increasing concern, which in some cases has turned to outrage, with how far out of touch and out of control Washington has become," Mr. Walker said.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, also noted that polling was a problem for the Democrats’ attempts to delegitimize their opposition.

"If the polls were showing 80 percent support for Obama’s health care plan, if the polls were showing increasing support for Obama personally, then you could say, ‘Hey where are these people coming from?’ " Mr. Norquist said. "But every poll shows that support for his plan or what they’re talking about doing on health care is plummeting, personal support for Obama is plummeting."

Virtually every poll published during the last few weeks has shown the president’s job approval declining noticeably, under duress from growing dissatisfaction over his handling of health care and the economy, and also from his comments about a racially charged incident involving the arrest of a black Harvard professor by a white Boston police officer.

A Quinnipiac poll released Thursday showed Mr. Obama with a 50 percent approval rating and 42 percent disapproval rating, down from 57 percent approval and 33 percent disapproval one month earlier….