WASHINGTON (CNN) - In the wake of President Barack Obama's nationally televised speech to Congress last week, a new national poll indicates that the president's approval rating is on the rise. But the CNN/Opinion Corporation survey (pdf) released Monday also suggests that the president's personal popularity has not translated into widespread support for his health care reform proposals.
Fifty-eight percent of people questioned in the poll approve of how Obama's handling his duties in the White House. That's up 5 points from late August. Forty-percent of those questioned disapprove of how Obama's doing his job, down five points since last month.
The survey was conducted Friday through Sunday, after the president addressed a joint session of Congress. The health care reform speech occurred at 8 pm ET, prime time across much of the nation.
The poll also indicates that Americans remain split on the president's plans on health care reform, with 51 percent favoring Obama's proposals and 46 percent opposed. Late last month, 48 percent of people questioned in a CNN survey backed the president's health care proposals, and 51 percent oppose them.
"Opposition remains close to pre-speech levels, but the intensity of the opposition has dropped significantly," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "The number who say they 'strongly oppose' Obama's plan has dropped 9 points."
The poll, not surprisingly, points to a partisan divide over health care, with eight in 10 Democrats favoring the president's plans, and a similar number of Republicans opposing Obama. Independents appear split, with 50 percent opposed and 46 percent in favor of the president's proposals.
The survey also indicates a generational divide.
"The speech appears to have done little to change the views of some of Obama's most important critics - senior citizens," says Holland. "A majority of Americans over the age of 65 continue to oppose his plan, and 44 percent of seniors say that Medicare recipients would be worse off under the Obama plan." Obama's approval rating also remains below 50 percent among seniors, says Holland.
Probably the public's biggest concern is the effect of Obama's plan on federal spending. Although Obama sought to reassure Americans in his speech, three-quarters of those polled said they think his plan will lead to an increase in the federal deficit.
Most also say that Obama's plan will eventually lead to a complete takeover of the health care system by the federal government. Nearly half say that Obama's plan will boost the amount they personally pay for medical care. The public is split over whether the government would provide insurance to illegal immigrants under the Obama plan.
But the president scored on at least one point: most say that Obama's plan would not lead to senior citizens or seriously-ill patients dying because a government panel would prevent them from getting medical treatment.
"Forty-one percent believe that Obama's plan will lead to government panels withholding life-or-death treatments from patients," Holland says. "That's a minority, but it's a pretty sizeable one, and that could spell trouble for the White House."
As for the Republicans, six in 10 say they have been obstructing Obama for political reasons. Only a third believe that the GOP has generally offered constructive criticism.
Eighty-five percent say that Rep. Joe Wilson's yelling of "you lie" to the president during the address to a joint session of Congress was inappropriate. The poll indicates that about third agree with the South Carolina Republican lawmaker's contention that Obama lied during his speech.
According to the poll, Democrats overwhelming approve of how the president's doing his job, with three out of four Republicans saying they disapprove. Independents appear split, with 51 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving of how Obama's handling his duties in the Oval Office.
The survey indicates that 54 percent of Americans approve of how the president's handling the economy, up 5 points from late August. Fifty-seven percent of those questioned approve of how Obama's dealing with health care, up 7 points from late last month. The poll suggests that the president's up 7 points on the issue of taxes, from 45 percent to 52 percent, up 10 points on how he's dealing with the federal budget deficit, from 36 percent to 46 percent, and up 4 points, to 58 percent, on foreign affairs.
"Polls typically find a rise in a president's approval rating after a major speech to Congress, and frequently his ratings improve even on topics that his speech did not address. But the real question is whether Obama can make any post-speech gains stick - something that presidents sometimes have trouble accomplishing." says Holland. "In September, 1993, for example, Bill Clinton's approval rating rose 10 points after his health care speech to Congress, but within three weeks he his approval rating was virtually back to his pre-speech levels."
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation telephone poll of 1,012 Americans adult Americans was conducted 9/11-13. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report