I asked Robert Gibbs today whether the White House thinks the latest polling shows what most people think it does — that support is eroding for the president’s health care reforms — and why they think that’s happening. He sort of answered the first question and did not at all answer the second.
Here’s the video and the transcript of our exchange — the two questions interjected in the middle are from Helen Thomas. Also, here are links to some of the polls: Rasmussen, Pew, Wall Street Journal/NBC, Time, New York Times/CBS, National Public Radio, Gallup.
Q A two-parter on health care. There are a number of polls that have come out in the last 10 days or so and the general interpretation has been that, overall, the President’s job approval rating is drifting downward and that, overall, public sentiment, approval for the main elements or contours of the plan on the Hill is also sliding downward. My first general question, is that the basic analysis here? Did you guys draw a different lesson?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think you can look at — I think there were probably I don’t know how many different polls out in the last 10 days, at least half a dozen. I think you can look at, in some ways, conflicting numbers within the polls. I mean, you’ve seen polls where a broad description of the program and its costs and what that means for the American people is a winner. Obviously — I think we’ve been in an environment where we’ve been focused on the process of health care reform, and I don’t think coincidentally that has not been the most popular thing when people watch it on television, the sort of sausage-making aspect of this.
So I think what the President takes from these polls is that we have to continue to redouble our efforts to ensure that people are getting all the information that they need to make a conclusion about the fact that this will help families with insurance; it will give access to health insurance for those that don’t have it; it will cut their costs; it will help the businesses that they work for; and it will finally put an end to some discrimination by insurance companies if you’re too sick or you have a preexisting condition. I think all of those are messages that the President believes need to be delivered each and every day.
Q And I do have a —
Q When does the message come out? I mean, you haven’t laid out any of the real priorities in the health care.
MR. GIBBS: No, I think the President was quite clear on the priorities that he believed that Congress should focus on, and he’s committed to those priorities, many of which I just outlined.
Q Why don’t —
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I think what we’re dealing with too is misinformation on the other side. I think that’s what the President has hoped to try to deal with over the past few days.
Q I do have a follow-up on this, but I would like this conversation recorded for on the record for the next time you say it, the President does not pay attention to polls.
MR. GIBBS: But you asked me what my analysis was. You didn’t ask me to — you didn’t ask me if the President had pored over those polls. And I can tell you the answer to that is no.
Q Okay, that’s fair. But you guys have obviously noticed a downward drift in some of these numbers. You just said misinformation is one of the major causes of that. Is that the main cause, in your opinion? I mean, is that the main reason that —
MR. GIBBS: Look, I think there’s competing goals. I think the President has been out there trying to make his case. He’ll continue to do that. I think — we just have to continue to go out there and talk to the American people about the benefits of this important legislation, how it will lay that foundation for long-term economic growth.
Look, I also think we’ve talked about this before. I think one of the things we have to do is talk about what happens if health care reform doesn’t happen, understanding again, as I’ve said up here before, what does the status quo mean? We know this — we know that in the next nine years, at least your premiums will double.
If we don’t do anything, if we fail to act — if we fail to act, thousands will lose their health insurance today, tomorrow, and the next day. Their costs are going to go up. People will be discriminated against because of an insurance company deciding that they have a preexisting condition. We know all of those things are going to happen if we don’t act. The President believes that now is the time to do so.
— Jon Ward, White House reporter, The Washington Times