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Most support public option for health insurance, poll finds

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), left, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), speak before marking up the panel's bill.
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), left, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), speak before marking up the panel's bill. (Melina Mara/the Washington Post)
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Nearly seven in 10 say they think that any health-care measure would increase the federal budget deficit, a possible concern for Obama. But nearly half of those who see the legislation as growing the deficit also say the increase would be "worth it."

Concerns about the implications for Medicare continue to cloud the debate. More than twice as many Americans (43 percent to 18 percent) say they think the legislation would weaken Medicare. Despite the dip in opposition to a health-care overhaul among seniors, most, 51 percent, still think reform would hurt the popular program.

Overall, 57 percent approve of the way Obama is handling his job as president and 40 percent disapprove. While those numbers have moved only marginally over the past few months, here, too, are fresh signs of restiveness among the party faithful: "Strong approval" among liberal Democrats is down 16 percentage points over the past month.

On the economy, 50 percent approve of Obama's efforts, while 48 percent disapprove.

The president receives better marks from all Americans for his handling of international affairs and his performance as commander in chief (57 percent approval on each). Slim majorities also approve of how he is dealing the situation with Iran and his winning of the Nobel Peace Prize. A majority disapprove of his work on the federal budget deficit.

Partisan divide

Despite those mixed reviews on domestic priorities, Obama continues to hold a big political advantage over Republicans.

Poll respondents are evenly divided when asked whether they have confidence in Obama to make the right decisions for the country's future, but just 19 percent express confidence in the Republicans in Congress to do so. Even among Republicans, only 40 percent express confidence in the GOP congressional leadership to make good choices.

Only 20 percent of adults identify themselves as Republicans, little changed in recent months, but still the lowest single number in Post-ABC polls since 1983. Political independents continue to make up the largest group, at 42 percent of respondents; 33 percent call themselves Democrats.

The wide gap in partisan leanings and the lack of confidence in the GOP carries into early assessments of the November 2010 midterm elections: Fifty-one percent say they would back the Democratic candidate in their congressional district if the elections were held now, while 39 percent would vote for the Republican. Independents split 45 percent for the Democrat, 41 percent for the Republican.

The poll was conducted by conventional and cellular telephone from Oct. 15 to 19 among a random sample of 1,004 adults. The margin of sampling error for the full poll is plus or minus three percentage points.

Polling analyst Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

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