President Obama has yet to sell health care reform convincingly to Americans. The public is skeptical about whether an overhaul of the health system is in its best interests. One indicator of the skepticism is the poor grade Americans give the president for his handling of the issue.
In the latest IBD/TIPP Poll conducted Aug. 4 to 8, the president gets a C- for his handling of health care policy. Democrats give him a B-, Republicans give him a D and Independents a C-.
Though the president is still popular with high approval ratings, his handling of health care policy has hurt. The president scored a positive 57.6 in August on the IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership Index, slipping a bit from 58.1 in July. But 37% give him an A or B for his handling of health care policy, while 60% give him a C or below.
Independents, a constituency the president needs, who give Obama a GPA of 1.54 on the issue - a grade below C - are closer to Republicans who give him a failing GPA of 0.85 than to Democrats with a GPA of 2.67.
Men and women see the president's health care performance similarly, with 35% of men and 39% of women giving him a good grade.
Generally speaking, as age increases, the share of those giving a poor grade for the president's performance on the health care issue increases. A large majority (61%) of those ages 65 and over and a similar share (64%) of those 45 to 64 grade the president at C or below. In contrast, the number drops to 56% for the 18 to 44 group.
By region, the South and the West see the president in a similar light, with GPAs of 1.68 (C-) and 1.70 (C-), respectively. The Northeast and Midwest are more favorable, with GPAs of 1.94 (C) and 1.84 (C), respectively.
Broken down by ideology, the president gets a D+ from conservatives, with nearly three-quarters (74%) giving a C or below. On the other hand, 68% of liberals give him an A or B. Moderates divide with 40% giving an A or B, 20% a C, and 36% a D or below.
Overall, moderates who award Obama a GPA of 1.94 are closer to conservatives who give him a GPA of 1.21 than liberals with a GPA of 2.83.
The data show a repetition of the pattern where typically the president gets high approval ratings but lags on his performance of specific issues.
Many factors explain the president's lackluster performance.
First, the core of the proposed health care overhaul envisions the government playing a pivotal role. This runs counter to an American ethos of minimal government involvement in the economy.
The nation is center-right, with nearly 46% identifying themselves as conservative. Recent polling data show Americans' skepticism of the government's increased role in the car and banking industries.
In addition, health care reform is a work in progress, with multiple versions of a reform bill now floating around in Congress, thus contributing to the public's confusion.
Many news stories and commentaries that have analyzed these bills have differed significantly from the president's statements, solidifying skepticism.
Also, the president suffered a strategic setback. Taking advantage of his high approval ratings in July, Obama set an ambitious deadline and asked Congress to pass the legislation before it went on its August recess. That proved impossible, and he had to move his goal post to December.
In retrospect, the fast-track approach the president adopted has not helped him further his goal.
Mayur is president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which directs the IBD/TIPP Poll that was the most accurate in the last two presidential elections.