The actual question presented a stark alternative of endorsing the status quo: "Do you think it would be better to pass Barack Obama's health care plan and make its changes to the health care system or to not pass this plan and keep the current health care system?" Yet the one-point gap was the closest-ever in the poll as "better to not pass this plan, keep current system" grew to 45 percent from 39 percent last September, a trend neither Williams nor Chuck Todd pointed out.
Williams did highlight how "most people tell us they don't approve of the way President Obama has handled the health care issue, but," he couldn't resist adding, "they disapprove of how Republicans in Congress have handled it by an even wider margin." (This post updated below with response from Todd.)
The full wording of the good vs bad idea question, #24 in the PDF of the findings : "From what you have heard about Barack Obama's health care plan, do you think his plan is a good idea or a bad idea? If you do not have an opinion either way, please just say so."
[UPDATE, 2:45 PM EDT, March 17: Chuck Todd considers this post, particularly the headline, unfair to him and NBC News - maintaining the for or against passage result was most-newsworthy this week - and in e-mail correspondence with a NewsBusters reader he pointed out that in reporting on previous polls he had highlighted how significantly more consider Obama's health care plan to be a "bad idea" than a "good idea."
Indeed, I went back and found this from his summary, on the Tuesday, January 26 NBC Nightly News, of an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey:His [Obama's] job approval rating actually went up slightly from two weeks ago to 50 percent, but there is still plenty of skepticism about his top domestic priority, health care. Now, just 31 percent believe his plan is a good idea, 46 percent still believe it's a bad idea. In fact, those polled believe the President has paid too much attention to the issue: 44 percent told us that, with just 16 percent who say he's paid too little attention to health care.]
Williams, leading the Tuesday, March 16 NBC Nightly News with some NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll numbers:
First off, about the President's health care reform plan: People are evenly split on that question, 46-45, despite what each party's been saying. Most people tell us they don't approve of the way President Obama has handled the health care issue [41% approve to 57% disapprove], but they disapprove of how Republicans in Congress have handled it by an even wider margin [35 vs 59%].- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here  to follow him on Twitter.