Obama's approval rating on health care improves

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Since its passage in March 2010, President Obama's health care reform package has been controversial. The latest Associated Press poll, however, finds that the percent of Americans who approve of the way Mr. Obama is handling health care has hit a new high.

The AP poll, conducted May 5-9, shows that 54 percent of Americans approve of Mr. Obama's handling of health care, while 46 percent disapprove. That figure has risen steadily since October of last year. Mr. Obama received his lowest marks on health care in the AP poll in September of 2009, when just 42 percent said they approved.

The poll also found that voters largely trust Democrats over Republicans on health care issues. Fifty-three percent of voters said they trust Mr. Obama's party over the GOP to handle health care, while 35 percent said they trust Republicans to do a better job. Ten percent said they trust neither party.

Similarly, 54 percent said they trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle Medicare, while 33 percent said they trust Republicans.

A CBS News poll in February found that most Americans (51 percent) disapproved of the Democrats' health care reforms, but few (35 percent) approved of Republican plans to cut off funding for the new law's implementation.

Still, as the contest for the Republican presidential nomination gains steam, opposition to Mr. Obama's health care reforms has remained a sort of litmus test for the candidates. Republican voters and pundits alike are also watching to see whether nominees will support the House GOP's controversial Medicare proposal, which would turn the government-run health care program for seniors into a voucher program.

Medicare reform has remained a critical issue within the Republican party as it seeks ways to significantly reduce the federal deficit. The latest AP poll shows that 54 percent of Americans think it's possible for the federal government to balance its budget without cutting spending on Medicare, while 44 percent say Medicare spending will have to be cut.