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Poll: Amid Obamacare skepticism, confidence in Obama wanes

By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto and Fred Backus

As President Obama's job approval rating plunges to the lowest of his presidency and Americans' sour on his handling of health care, also taking a hit is confidence in his management of the government as well as a number of personal qualities.

Most notably, weeks after the fumbled opening of the health care exchanges, just 32 percent approve of how Mr. Obama is handling the issue of health care, down eight points from September, and the lowest since CBS News began asking the question in 2009.


A rocky beginning to the opening of the new health insurance exchanges has also taken its toll on how Americans perceive the Affordable Care Act. Now, approval of the law has dropped to 31 percent - the lowest number yet recorded in CBS News Polls, and a drop of 12 points since last month. Sixty-one percent disapprove (a high for this poll), including 46 percent who say they disapprove strongly.

Republicans are nearly unanimous in their disapproval of the law, and now more than two-thirds of independents agree. Almost six in 10 Democrats continue to support the law, but their support has dropped 16 points from last month - from 74 percent in October to 58 percent today. Support has dropped 11 points among independents and five points among Republicans.

Most Americans don't have much confidence in the ability of the Obama administration to implement the Affordable Care Act. Forty-five percent of Americans are confident, while more than half say they are either not very (22 percent) or not at all (31 percent) confident.

The Rollout of the Health Care Exchanges

Just a third of Americans are confident that the federal government's healthcare website - - will be fixed by the December 1st deadline set by the Obama administration.

Thirty-four percent are at least somewhat confident, while almost two thirds are either not very or not at all confident. Fifty-five percent of Democrats are at least somewhat confident.

But fixing a broken website may not be enough to mend the loss of confidence in the Affordable Care Act. While 31 percent think the issues with the website are simply isolated problems, 63 percent think they are signs of more widespread problems to come.

More than a month after the exchanges opened, just one in 10 Americans think the sign-up for the exchanges has been going well. Instead, more than two-thirds think it's not going well - including seven in 10 of those who have looked up information on the exchanges themselves.

Forty-seven percent think the initial rollout of the new health care exchanges is going worse than they had expected.

"If You Like It, You Can Keep It"

Americans agree about what should happen to those who had coverage that was cancelled because of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Sixty-nine percent think these Americans should be able to keep their plans as long as they want, even if they don't meet the requirements set up by the 2010 health care law. Twenty-five percent think they should be allowed to keep their plans for just a year, the solution currently being proposed by the Obama administration. Just four percent think they should have to give up their plans now.

President Obama has taken personal fire for repeatedly claiming that if Americans liked the health insurance plans they were enrolled in, they would be allowed to keep those plans - a claim that proved not to be true for millions of Americans. Forty-six percent of Americans think the President was deliberately hiding something when he made these claims, while 48 percent do not.

A 57 percent majority think President Obama is making things sound better than they really are when he talks about how the health care system will be once the law is fully implemented.

The Future of the Affordable Care Act

Just seven percent of Americans think the Affordable Care Act is working well and should be kept in place as it is. Instead, 48 percent think there are some good things in the law, but changes are needed to make it work better, and another 43 percent think the law needs to be repealed entirely.

There is widespread skepticism about President Obama's assertion that the new health care law will improve the overall health care system in the United States. Thirty percent of Americans think the 2010 health care law will make the health care system better than it was before. More - 44 percent - think it will make the health care system worse, while 22 percent don't think it will make a difference.

Many Americans continue to express concern over what effect the Affordable Care Act will have on them personally. Thirty-nine percent think the law will hurt them, while 43 percent think it will have no effect, and just 15 percent think it will help them.

But many Americans also say they don't understand just how the 2010 health care law will affect them. Forty-eight percent say they do, while 48 percent say it is confusing to them.

Americans routinely say the government is generally doing too much, but the rocky rollout of may have raised added doubts about what government can accomplish. Today, 63 percent say government is doing too many things better left to individuals and private businesses - an increase from the 58 percent who said so in February.

Eleven percent of Americans in this poll say they have looked up information about the new exchanges on the website, and another seven percent say they looked up information on the state-run exchanges. Among those who did look up information from either source or who called, 37 percent said they were able to get the information they needed.

President Obama: Qualities

The president has also taken a hit on a number of personal qualities as well. Just half of Americans think he has strong qualities of leadership, down eight points from September and the lowest of his presidency. During the presidential campaign last fall, 60 percent of voters said Mr. Obama was honest and trustworthy, but just 49 percent of Americans think that today. Most also do not think the president shares their priorities for the country.  


In addition, a slim majority (53 percent) have little or no confidence in Mr. Obama's ability to manage the federal government effectively. 47 percent express at least some confidence.

Empathy continues to be one of the president's strongest areas, but the percentage of Americans who says he cares a lot or some about the problems of people like themselves has declined from 62 percent in September to 53 percent today.

The president's overall job approval rating has declined among many demographic groups since last month, including independents (a 12-point drop), men (down 9 points), and women (a 10 point drop). More women now disapprove than approve of the job Mr. Obama is doing as president. Approval has dropped across all age groups, including among Americans under age 30 - historically some of Mr. Obama's strongest supporters.

When compared to recent two-term presidents, President Obama's approval rating is similar to that of George W. Bush at this point in his presidency, but lower than the ratings of both Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. In November 2005, 35 percent of Americans approved of the job President Bush was doing. That number mostly declined over the rest of his term, hitting a low of 20 percent in October 2008.

In addition to the drop on handling health care, fewer also now approve of President Obama's handling of the economy and the budget deficit than did so earlier this fall. Terrorism is the only issue asked about in the poll on which more Americans approve than disapprove of the president's job performance.

The Economy and Country's Direction

By a two to one margin, Americans continue to view the condition of the national economy negatively. Two thirds think it is in bad shape; just 33 percent think it is good. These figures are unchanged since last month.

At 25 percent, economic optimism has improved slightly since last month, but is still below levels found earlier in the year. Thirty-three percent now think the economy is getting worse, down five points since October.

The economy and jobs remain the top concern for Americans, but the percentage that volunteers health care as the most important problem facing the country has about doubled since last month.

Nearly seven in 10 Americans support an increase in the federal minimum wage which is currently $7.25 an hour. This includes 33 percent who would like to see the rate changed to $9.00 an hour and 36 percent who support a larger increase to $10.10 an hour. A quarter of Americans would like the federal minimum wage to remain at $7.25.

Twenty-seven percent of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction now; more than twice as many, 68 percent, say it is off on the wrong track.


Congress continues to receive dismal job ratings from the American public. Only 11 percent approve, while 85 percent disapprove. Opinions are virtually unchanged from last month, just after the government shutdown.

Both major parties in Congress are viewed negatively. Just 26 percent of Americans approve of how the Democrats in Congress are doing their job, down five points from last month and the party's lowest approval measure since January 2012. At the same time, only 21 percent approve of the job congressional Republicans are doing, and 73 percent now disapprove -- a slight drop from last month.


This poll was conducted by telephone November 15-18, 2013 among 1,010 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by Social Science Research Solutions of Media, Pa. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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