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Views of Obamacare improve, but are still negative overall

A new CBS News-New York Times poll finds fewer people disapprove of President Barack Obama's handling of health care, while public attitudes about Obamacare have improved
White House believes worst of health care nightmare is over 01:34

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

Ten days after the Obama administration's deadline to fix the glitches with its troubled website, most Americans (58 percent) don't think the signup for the new health care exchanges is going well, but more than a third – 36 percent -- think it is improving, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll.

The poll finds some improvement in overall views of the health care law since last month, although more Americans disapprove than approve of it, as they have since the law was passed. Fifty percent now disapprove of the health care law, while 39 percent approve.  These percentages are similar to polls conducted earlier in the fall, but are more positive compared to last month, when disapproval reached an all-time high of 61 percent.


Still, just 16 percent of Americans think sign-up on the health care exchanges has been going well – and far more, 58 percent, think it’s not going well.  However, the percentage that says it is not going well has dropped nine points since last month.


But just over a third sees some improvement in the sign-up process.  Thirty-six percent think the signup for the health care exchanges is getting better.  Forty-four percent think it is staying the same, and another 13 percent think it is getting worse.

Even 33 percent of those who say the signup is not going well think the process is getting better.

The President: Ratings and Qualities

Barack Obama’s job approval rating has risen slightly from an all-time low of 37 percent last month to 42 percent now. Last month’s low occurred as his administration weathered a highly-criticized roll out of the health care exchange website under the Affordable Care Act.  Disapproval of how the president is handling his job is also down seven points – from 57 percent last month to 50 percent now.


In particular, there has been an improvement in the way Americans view the job President Obama is doing handling health care.  While most Americans still disapprove of his handling of it, approval has risen nine points since November, from 32 percent (a record low) to 41 percent today.

There has also been a bump up in approval of his handling of foreign policy.  Now, the percentage that approves (42 percent) is nearly even with disapproval (44 percent).  Assessment of his handling of the economy remains at 37 percent - unchanged from last month.

The president’s improved rating on handling health care is largely due to a rally by Democrats.  Seventy percent of Democrats approve of the way Mr. Obama is handling health care, up 11 points from last month.  Approval among Republicans and independents has also risen six points each, though most still disapprove.

The president has not made any headway since last month’s poll on two measures:  his honesty and whether or not he shares the priorities of most Americans.  Americans are divided over whether President Obama is honest and trustworthy – 49 percent say he is and 46 percent say he is not. 

There is greater consensus that Mr. Obama does not share their priorities – 58 percent of Americans say he does not.


Approval of how Congress is handling its job remains dismal. Only 10 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, just one percentage point above the all-time low of 9 percent.  Eighty-three percent disapprove.

The Economy and Country’s Direction

While the nation’s unemployment rate is now at a five year low, most Americans (61 percent) continue to say the economy is in bad shape. Thirty-seven percent now think the economy is good, a slight uptick from last month and at the same level it was in the summer.



The public’s economic outlook isn’t especially positive. Twenty-seven percent think the economy is getting better, while 30 percent say it is getting worse. Forty-two percent think it is staying the same.

As it has since 2008, the economy and jobs is the top concern for Americans (24 percent), followed by health care (13 percent), the budget and the national debt (6 percent), government issues (5 percent) and partisan politics (4 percent). 

Americans remain mostly pessimistic about where the country his headed: 30 percent think it is headed in the right direction, but far more - 63 percent - say things are off on the wrong track.


This poll was conducted by telephone December 5-8, 2013 among 1,000 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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