March 31st, 2014
12:38 PM ET
8 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. Dean

    Obama's crowning achievement is a failure. Typical.

    March 31, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  2. Gurgyl

    Well, this ACA is not denying healthcare. Why not GOP ever passed any healthcare law??? Is Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson drama to loot this nation's poor?

    March 31, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  3. Marie MD

    Sorry steinhauser . Unpopular with whom? The teaklan brain dead? See below.
    #1 on your list. I have a co worker who hates her job and can't wait to be fired or laid off. The reason she doesn't want Obamacare is because her hatred of our President is bigger than her wanting to get out of here and she doesn't want to have anything to do with anything with his name on it. Duh! She's a first class racist.
    I have a friend who still thinks our President is a Muslim but she talks about Obamacare as if it was the second coming of the bible. She knows that if anything happens at her place of employment she can still have medical insurance and she's feeling much better about her future.

    March 31, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  4. rs

    The GOP is clearly taking a risk on their "ACA must die" policy. Citing the article above, there is clearly a health care insurance fatigue factor, and a lack of enthusiasm for overturning the law (something the GOP has way overplayed). The law may never be "popular", but I think most Americans see what it is meant to do, and as the GOP still has nothing on hand to either replace the ACA with, or any substantive changes to make it better, they are simply advertising that they don't care about the affordability of health care insurance for average Americans. That might bite them in the end.

    March 31, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  5. rs

    Dean

    Obama's crowning achievement is a failure. Typical.
    __________________
    6 million enrollees and climbing. What can the GOP show for success in the past 6 years? A government shutdown or two? Typical.

    March 31, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  6. Donna

    Obama has been making so many changes to this disaster, nobody really knows what this law is anymore. He has also delayed the most destructive and intrusive aspects for political reasons in order to try and save the Democrats from total decimation in the coming elections. But the American people have already gotten a glimpse into their healthcare future as millions of Americans had their healthcare policies cancelled because of Obamacare and all the lies that Obama and the Democrats told us. The Liar of the Year and his party of liars will hear from the American people this November.

    March 31, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  7. Lolo

    Poor Dean and the rest of the clown party are hoping and praying for failure for the American people only because the black President implemented Obamacare before thr rethugs could. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 31, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  8. James

    The United States ranks 37th in the world in health care quality but spends more than any other nation on it. It has nothing to do with Obamacare it has to do with Insurance companies love to make billions of dollars of profit and don’t care at all about a people, no company does. I mean who is going to stop them or any cooperation from doing what they want…..NO ONE theyve been sucking our coutnry dry for the past 60 years finding ways to push greed further and further.selling the american dream right out from under us while we are distracted with pety details and politicians who they paid for to get elected.

    March 31, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  9. AlGore Lies

    1. How many of the 40 million americans without health care now have health care?
    2. Of the 6 million that are now insured, how many of those are young people who both do not need it nor want health insurance?
    3. Of the 6 million that are now insured, how many have made more than one premium payment?
    4. Of the number of insured people in 3. above, how many of those are NOT folk who signed up for medicaid, which has already been available for those who cannot afford health care?
    5. Of the number of insured in both 3. and 4. above, how many of those needed subsidy (you and my tax dollars) in order to be able to AFF-ord Obamacare?
    6. Items 3., 4. & 5. above reminds me of changing a $20 dollar bill from the right pant pocket to the left pant pocket in the hopes of winding up with $40 by the end of the day.
    Polls...polls...I would like to see one poll answer the items above for all americans who just might be wondering about the same thing.

    March 31, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  10. Bill

    "Just under three in ten advocated repealing the law or replacing it with a Republican-backed plan."

    Republican-backed plan??? If there was one to begin with... LOL

    March 31, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  11. Silence DoGood

    "Unpopularity doesn't equal support for repeal"
    Keep in mind there are a number of progressive liberals like me who didn't like ACA only because it didn't go far enough. Conservatives are always quick to misrepresent this. People generally want something done as opposed to the GOP offering of leave things alone and see what happens.

    March 31, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  12. Mightyduk

    Now people have to be responsible for their own health care. I'm all for it.

    March 31, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  13. GOP = Greed Over People

    "53% said they were tired of hearing about the debate over Obamacare and that it was time to move on to other issues."

    To the GOP baggers, please disregard this obviously, "skewed" poll and just use it to further show how much the "librul" media continues to "carry water for Obama"!

    So, keep working on "repeal and replace" in Congress, try for a goal of 100 failed attempts, we never get tired of your poor loser temper tantrum, outside the Fox Fable's figment image of reality!

    March 31, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  14. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    The Republican health insurance plan, passed and implemented by the Democrats. Must really be hard for the power hungry Republicans to take. How sad...

    March 31, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  15. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House

    Silence DoGood
    "Unpopularity doesn't equal support for repeal"
    Keep in mind there are a number of progressive liberals like me who didn't like ACA only because it didn't go far enough. Conservatives are always quick to misrepresent this. People generally want something done as opposed to the GOP offering of leave things alone and see what happens.
    ---------------------------
    I co-sign!

    March 31, 2014 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  16. CALIFORNIA

    More people have lost their insurance than have gained insurance.

    Net loss of people have insurance now.

    OBAMACARE = FAILURE

    March 31, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....
    At my job some of the policies changed but for the better. For the first time more was covered and the increase was $3 weekly. Typically, my rates go up and coverage decreases. Not this time!! Thanks President Obama!!
    -------

    Yeah, my employer pulled this same trick. They kept the cost the same if I divulged a lot of personal medical information and personal habits. If I did this, the 19% increase in cost would not occur. But next year I'm sure this same trick will not be played and I'll get nailed with that 19% and another 10-20% on top of that.

    There are a MASSIVE number of games being played on us people. The bottom line is we are all being scammed and losing a good chuck of our personal freedom. What do you expect from the Democrats, the party of lies and deceit.

    March 31, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  18. Lynda/Minnesota

    "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."

    Put me in that column. In full disclosure mode ... I've been in that column for a few years now.

    March 31, 2014 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  19. smith

    Didn`t take long for the race card to get thrown out here on this post. It seems funny when someone post something how the ACA has helped them or sombody they know, nobody calls that person a liar. However, if you post a comment about how the ACA has impacted you in a negative way your called a liar, racist, or uninformed.

    March 31, 2014 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  20. just asking

    Mightyduk
    Now people have to be responsible for their own health care. I'm all for it.
    --

    right, just not for paying for it themselves. obamacare requires others to pay for it, be it your parents, or their employers in the case of keeping 26 year old 'kids' on your policy. or in the case of all the free medicaid, that is the taxpayers, the working middle class that will get that bill. and the lower premiums for the sick and elderly are being footed by the young who pay triple what they should be paying.

    and of course, all this does ot even take into account the 21 new obamacare taxes that the middle class gets hit with.

    yeah, just gotta love that 'free' healthcare! welcome to obamascam!!

    March 31, 2014 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  21. Tony

    The Republican strategy of repeating the words "failure" and "disaster" and hoping people believe them is a failure/disaster. Typical. Enrollment in private health insurance through the online exchanges may hit 7 million anyway, as originally predicted by the CBO, even though the federal website was not working in the first month. The enrollment number does not include people getting Medicaid or people under 26 getting coverage through their parents.

    March 31, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  22. Abbey

    When the mandates hit full time you can bet the house that many Americans are going to be fed up with this law.

    March 31, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  23. Rudy NYC

    James observed:

    The United States ranks 37th in the world in health care quality but spends more than any other nation on it. It has nothing to do with Obamacare it has to do with Insurance companies love to make billions of dollars of profit and don’t care at all about a people, no company does.

    I mean who is going to stop them or any cooperation from doing what they want…..NO ONE theyve been sucking our coutnry dry for the past 60 years finding ways to push greed further and further.selling the american dream right out from under us while we are distracted with pety details and politicians who they paid for to get elected.
    ---------------------------
    Yup. It's all about greed. For some unknown reason, conservatives seem to think greed is a moral virtue. What people fail to realize is that conservatives have spent decades telling people "look over there" while they modify the laws to destroy economic opportunity. After all, money is power and who would want to share power? The fewer, the better.

    March 31, 2014 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  24. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Lynda/Minnesota

    "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."

    Put me in that column. In full disclosure mode ... I've been in that column for a few years now
    -------------------------------------------------
    Signed and co-signed.

    March 31, 2014 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  25. ghostwriter

    We could always go with the republican plan that is about 75% Obamacare.

    March 31, 2014 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
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