As a former reporter for the Star Tribune who wrote scores of news stories based on the Minnesota Poll, I am very familiar with the science of polling and its limitations, and the crucial importance of context. Here's some important context for the poll results and the headline that declared "Obama's support declines sharply.''
A drop in 10 percentage points on job approval, after the "honeymoon" and late in a president's first year, is typical, but especially if he's mounting the most sweeping social and economic reforms in decades during the most serious recession in a century. The coroporate bailouts and continuing war in the Middle East have angered the left, the bailouts and the expansion of a public role in health-care have infuriated the right, everybody's still worried about their personal finances, and still the president's approval rating is about 20 points higher than his predecessor's.
The concerns about health-care transformation undoubtedly are an overriding factor but it appears that the dissatisfaction with Obama's plan comes from many liberal folks who wish he'd gone further. Although Minnesotans disapprove of his overall "handling" of health care (45 percent to 39 percent), there is clear approval of the "public option'' despised by the right-wing critics (51 percent to 37 percent). Most in the poll approve a law requiring coverage (54 percent to 37 percent) and a slight plurality (43 percent to 40 percent) actually favor the overall changes being supported by Obama and his congressional allies. Most important, perhaps, the poll showed that about 40 percent of Minnesotans are either worried about losing coverage or are currently uninsured.
We've often made the case that there is a sustained majority in Minnesota who favor the moderate-to-progressive position on key economic and tax-budget issues. These key issues include support for public education, transportation, public health-care, environmental protection and most of the worthwhile vital investments that our governments provide. This majority also favors a fairer and reasonably larger tax burden on those at the top of the income scale, and polls show it opooses an inflexible "no new taxes'' orthodoxy.
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