March 31st, 2014
12:38 PM ET
9 months ago

Five things polling tells us about Obamacare

Washington (CNN) - It's deadline day for Obamacare.

Monday's the last day of open enrollment to sign up for health insurance and avoid a penalty, through exchanges set up as part the federal health care law, formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

While there are sharp political disagreements over the measure, one thing's for sure: there has been more polling on the 2010 law than any other legislation in recent years. And the measure should be a major issue in the 2014 midterm elections, just as it was in the 2010 midterms and the 2012 presidential contest.

More trouble for healthcare.gov on deadline day

Here are five things that public opinion polling tells us about the law.

1. Obamacare remains unpopular: Just about every national poll indicates that more Americans disapprove of the law than support the measure. According to the most recent survey, conducted just over a week ago by CBS News, 53% of Americans gave the law a thumbs down, compared to 41% saying they approve of the Affordable Care Act.

Other polls conducted earlier this month had similar results. By a 53% to 43% margin, voters in a George Washington University/Battleground survey oppose the law. By a 46% to 38% margin, Americans questioned in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll said they had an unfavorable view of Obamacare. Fifty-three percent of adults nationwide surveyed in a Pew Research Center poll said they disapproved of the law, with 41% saying they supported it.

And according to a CNN/ORC International survey, 57% of adults nationwide oppose the measure, compared to 39% supporting it.

This lack of support for the law is nothing new. While the numbers have rebounded a bit since last fall's disastrous roll out of healthcare.gov, overall the measure has been unpopular with many Americans dating back to the first debates over the legislation in 2009.

Monday afternoon, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll indicated that 49% of Americans supported the law, with 48% opposed. The uptick in support for the measure since January came from a double digit increase in backing from Democrats.

2. Unpopularity doesn't equal support for repeal: Just as most national polling indicates that more people disapprove than approve of Obamacare, the surveys also are clear that more people want to keep rather than scrap the Affordable Care Act.

Nearly six in ten in the Kaiser study said Congress should work to improve the measure or keep it the way it currently stands. Just under three in ten advocated repealing the law or replacing it with a Republican-backed plan.

A majority of the 53% in the Pew poll who said they disapprove of the law still said they wanted to make the measure work. Just over half of those questioned in a Bloomberg national poll said Obamacare may need small modifications, but "we should see how it works.” Thirteen percent said the law should be left alone, while just over a third advocated repealing the law.

And according to the CNN poll, 39% said they opposed the law because it is too liberal, but 12% said they opposed it because it's not liberal enough. That means roughly half the public either favor Obamacare or want something that goes even further.

3. Some parts of the law are popular: It's the ultimate paradox. Overall, Obamacare remains mostly unpopular with the public, but many Americans give a thumbs up to most specific parts of the Affordable Care Act that have been tested in surveys .

The Bloomberg poll was the most recent study to ask about the law's specific components, and its findings are similar to what previous surveys have found. Nearly three-quarters questioned in that survey said the provision that allowed children up to age 26 to remain on their parents' policies should be kept. Nearly two-thirds said the same thing about the component that prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

A majority also wanted to keep the provision eliminating lifetime caps on how much insurance companies must pay for a person's health care.

But by a slight 51% to 47% margin, Americans wanted to repeal the individual mandate, which forces everyone to have health insurance or face penalties.

Democrats defending the overall law tout the popularity of many of the specific provisions.

"Even if you choose not to use the exchanges at all, you stand to benefit from the Affordable Care Act," wrote Democratic strategist Paul Begala in an op-ed Monday on CNN.com.

"If you or someone in your family has a pre-existing condition, you are a winner under the ACA. Ditto if, God forbid, you have an illness or an accident that would have maxed-out your pre-Obamacare coverage limit: the ACA outlaws coverage caps," added Begala, a longtime adviser to both Bill and HIllary Clinton, who's also an adviser to Priorities USA, the super PAC set up to support Obama's 2012 re-election that's now raising money for a potential Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016.

4. Voter intensity over the law benefits the GOP: Opposition to Obamacare, which was passed into law in the spring of 2010, when the Democrats controlled by the Senate and the House of Representatives, was a factor in the Republican wave that November. The GOP took back control of the House, thanks to a historic 63-seat pick up, and trimmed the Democrats’ majority in the Senate.

The law also was a major issue in President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election victory over Republican nominee Mitt Romney. The Democrats picked up seats in the Senate and House in that election.

Just over half of those questioned in the Bloomberg poll say that candidates' opinions about the health care law will be a major issue in how they decide whom to vote for in November, with one in five saying it will be a minor factor and just under a quarter saying Obamacare won't affect their vote at all.

Forty-seven percent of respondents in the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey said they would most likely support a congressional candidate who advocated repealing the health care law, compared to 45% saying they would most likely back a candidate who called for keeping and fixing the measure.

Likewise, the poll indicated that 48% would be more likely to back a Democratic candidate who supports fixing and keeping the law, versus 47% saying they would be more likely to support a GOP candidate who advocates repealing and eliminating the measure.

While overall Americans are split, the NBC/Wall Street Journal survey indicated that intensity over the law is helping the GOP at the moment. And in a traditionally low turnout midterm election where getting out a party's base is crucial, the numbers right now appear to give the Republicans an advantage.

"This data pretty clearly shows that even though attitudes regarding the ACA are ‘baked in’ with voters (68% feel strongly one way or another about the issue), the intensity is clearly on the negative side, as GOP voters clearly dislike the new law more than Democrats are in love with it," said GOP pollster Neil Newhouse, a co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies, which along with the Democratic Hart Research Associates conducted the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

"In a lower turnout mid-term election like 2014, that gives the GOP a significant initial advantage. Their voters will be easier to motivate and get to the polls than the Democrats," added Newhouse, a top pollster for Romney's 2012 presidential campaign.

The new ABC News/Washington Post all also indicated an intensity advantage for opponents of the law: 36% said they strongly opposed Obamacare, compared to 25% who said they strongly backed the Affordable Care Act.

5. Health care fatigue: It was one of the most eye popping numbers from the Kaiser study: 53% said they were tired of hearing about the debate over Obamacare and that it was time to move on to other issues. Just over four in ten said it was important for the health care debate to continue.

Even Republicans were split on the issue, as were those who gave the law a thumbs down. That finding may prove troubling to some Republicans as the GOP continues to frame the midterm elections as a referendum on the President - whose approval ratings remain in the low to mid 40s – and his signature domestic achievement.

"To date, most Americans have been personally unaffected by the new health care law," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But nearly everyone has been affected by the economy. If the GOP spends too much time talking about health care, it might wind up leaving the impression that they are attempting to dodge questions about their economic policy."

Grading Obamacare


Filed under: 2014 • CNN poll • CNN/ORC International poll • CNN/ORC poll • Health care • Healthcare • Obamacare • Polls
soundoff (177 Responses)
  1. Malory Archer

    ScoobyDude – " It would be nice if the damn website would actually WORK, but it doesn't; therefore, I am UNABLE to register for this program online, due to technical issues."

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Why did you wait until the VERY LAST SECOND to sign up? Sounds like your problem is self-created, Dude.

    March 31, 2014 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  2. m123

    Why on Earth would anyone think the govt can manage anything effectively?
    What a joke

    March 31, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
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