Poll: Most Oppose Cutting Funding for Health Care Reforms

CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto reports:

A majority of the public disapproves of the Republican idea to cut off funding for health care reform, a new CBS News poll shows – although most also disapprove of the health care law, and many aren’t sure of its impact on the health care system.

Republicans in Congress have said they intend to do everything in their power to stop President Obama’s health care reforms from going into place – including de-funding provisions of the legislation. Funding for the new health care reforms is one component of the debate Republicans intend to have with the president this year over federal spending, deficit reduction and government regulations.

The new CBS News poll, conducted Feb. 11 – 14, shows that 42 percent of Americans trust Mr. Obama to lower the deficit – and just as many trust Republicans in Congress. Meanwhile, an increasing number of Americans agree with Republicans that government regulates business too heavily.

The president’s overall approval rating stands at 48 percent, similar to last month. Congress’ approval rating is up since last fall, but is still low at 24 percent.

Health Care Reform

Most Americans, 55 percent, disapprove of the plan to cut off funding to the new health care reforms, and just 35 percent approve. Among Republicans, approval rises to 57 percent. Forty-nine percent of independents disapprove, and 38 percent approve.

Overall, Americans are wary of the new health care reform laws: 21 percent think the new law will make the system better, but 23 percent think the law will make the system worse.

Another 44 percent say they don’t know enough to say what the law’s impact will be. Uncertainty has increased since the law was first passed last year.

And while there are partisan differences – 43 percent of Republicans think it will make the system worse, but 40 percent of Democrats see it as an improvement – large segments of Republicans, Democrats and independents don’t know what effect the law will have on the health care system.

As has been the case since the law was passed nearly a year ago, more Americans disapprove than approve of the legislation. Now, 33 percent approve, while 51 percent disapprove, including 34 percent who disapprove strongly.

The Budget Deficit

As Republicans in Congress continue the debate over health care, they are also putting more emphasis on the issue of deficit reduction.

Some Americans – but not a majority – expect they will have to feel some personal pain in order to reduce the deficit. Forty-nine percent expect that the government will have to cut programs that benefit them in order to lower the deficit, while nearly as many — 41 percent — think that won’t be necessary.

Both Republicans and independents expect this will be needed, while most Democrats do not.

Fewer, just 37 percent, expect it will be necessary to increase taxes on people like themselves. Those expectations rise along with income; a majority of Americans with incomes of $100,000 or more expect it will be necessary for them to pay higher taxes in order to lower the deficit.

Americans continue to rate the federal budget deficit as a serious problem, although it ranks second – far below the economy and jobs – on the list of important issues facing the country. Seven in 10 call it very serious, and another 25 percent say it is somewhat serious. Those numbers have remained steady over the past few months.

Republicans also have a significant portion of Americans on their side when it comes to reducing government regulations.

In the aftermath of the serious problems faced by the U.S. financial system in late 2008, more Americans felt the government was regulating business too little. Now, that has changed. Just 27 percent think there is too little regulation of business. Far more, 45 percent, think there is too much. Another 17 percent think there are the right amount of regulations.

Job Approval Ratings for Congress and the President

CBS News measured the job approval rating of the new Congress for the first time in this poll. Most Americans, 62 percent, continue to disapprove of the job Congress is doing. Majorities of all partisan stripes disapprove. However, the percentage that approves has risen from 17 percent in November to 24 percent.

Mr. Obama’s overall job approval rating is now 48 percent, similar to what it was last month. Forty-one percent disapprove of the way he is handling his job as president.

The president remains popular among those in his own party, while most Republicans disapprove of the job he is doing. Among independents, 42 percent approve while 39 percent disapprove – similar to last month.

On specific areas, the president continues to receive approval ratings mostly below the 50 percent mark. On the economy, the nation’s top concern, 42 percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing, and even fewer (31 percent) approve of Mr. Obama’s handling of the deficit. However, the president gets higher marks for his handling of the situation in Egypt: 50 percent approve, while 22 percent disapprove. More than a quarter doesn’t have an opinion.

More think Mr. Obama shares their priorities than think either major party in Congress does. Forty-five percent of Americans say the president has the same priorities for the country as they do, but more – 51 percent – say he does not.

Republicans and Democrats think their own party in Congress shares their priorities, while majorities of independents do not think their priorities are shared by either the Republicans or Democrats in Congress.

The president is viewed as a strong leader by the American public: 62 percent say he has strong qualities of leadership.

The Tea Party

As the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives prepares to meet for the first time later this week, more than half of Tea Party supporters are satisfied with the amount of attention the Republicans in Congress are giving the views of the movement, but a third say the Republicans in Congress are paying too little attention to their views.

Twenty percent of Americans in this poll identify themselves as supporters of the Tea Party; they are mostly conservative (61 percent) and Republican (54 percent).

Americans’ overall views of the Tea Party movement are slightly more negative than positive, but more than half are undecided or haven’t heard enough about the movement to have an opinion.

Forty-five percent of the public says the views of the Tea Party movement do not reflect those of most Americans; only 27 percent think they do. Tea Partiers themselves are more likely to think the views of the movement represent those of the country at large.

Half of Republicans say the Tea Party reflects the views of the Republican Party. Half either say it does not, or they don’t know.