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. rs

    sayer

    No one has a problem buying car insurance for their car. Why not buy health insurance for yourself?
    ___________________________
    In Rightland its all about "freedom". Freedom to die from preventable illness, freedom to go bankrupt from a hospitalization after a major illness, freedom to use the ER and dodge the bills and have the rest of society pay, the freedom from responsibility to take care of ones' self.

    More accurately it is their "freedom" to make no sense and lie their pants off about the ACA.

    March 31, 2014 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  2. stephen douglas

    Polls can be set up to show whatever results one wants. Having said this, anyone who thinks government managed healthcare should go visit a couple VA Hospitals. God bless the staff at these places, they put up with a lot of chit, but the fact is they are over worked, underpaid, and the conditions are sometimes not so nice. That is what will ultimately happen to civilian hospitals as the dollars slow, the best people leave the industry, and cutbacks are made in care, supplies, etc., in order to make a profit. They will be overwhelmed with the new patients pouring in to take advantage of what will be more affordable health care, so, every scratch, every ding, every stomach ache will require a doctor's visit. Appointments will stretch to six, eight and ten months for checkups. You will wait for half and full days to see a doctor. It will not be pretty, but it will be cheaper....

    March 31, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  3. rs

    Topgun 74

    Remember IN November! Remember who promised you could keep your insurance if you liked it. Remember who promised you could keep your doctor. Remember who promised families would save $2500 a year. This law is a disaster foisted on the American people. Remember to thank the Democrats appropriately this November.
    __________________________
    Remember in November those that have no plan to fix heath care in America, and those who would allow health insurance to go out of all buying- the GOP.

    March 31, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  4. Bill from GA

    A majority want to keep the provision eliminating lifetime caps, to allow children up to age 26 to remain on their parents' policies, and to keep the component that prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

    But, by a slight margin, Americans wanted to repeal the individual mandate, which is necessary to pay for the above.

    You righties should ask you repub Congressmen and Prez wannabees how that is going to work. Or ask Bill O'Reilly. Generally, repubs just add their goodies to the national debt, then blame the dems.

    March 31, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  5. Ztarbod

    Pre-existing conditions could have addressed much more directly. The federal government already had a massive program for pre-existing conditions called Medicare.

    March 31, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  6. american doc

    Stand with me to end democrat suffrage. I feel so bad every time I see the pain and the damage done. We must end this unnecessary abuse now!

    March 31, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  7. Americans Wakeup

    “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.” –Obama

    Voters will remember these lies midterm and in 2016.

    March 31, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  8. Bill from GA

    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."

    Sounds like a real problem. Guess Barry's gonna have to extend the deadline another week or two for all you procrastinators who waited to the last day. Wouldn't want to leave you out, huh??

    So call your Congressman and tell him to ask Barry for an extension.

    March 31, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  9. Wkd4WhatIHave

    Put it to a national referendum....and settle it once and for all...No doubt in my mind what the outcome will be! Polls are unreliable, change like the wind, and are slanted, as is this article. Politicians are a waste of time, no matter what side you lean towards....THEY created the mess this country is in, THEY wasted the trillions like drunkin' fools, and now all THEY want to tax, tax, tax to fix it, while they keep spending like fools, fools, fools...Heaven forbid they cut anything from the budget....Doing the needful may cost them a vote...all they care about is their re-election. It is about time THEY live within our means, instead of working the people that actually work in this country to the bone.

    March 31, 2014 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  10. Malory Archer

    Q. I'm young and healthy. Why do I need health insurance?
    A. Despite your age and health, you never know when a serious injury or illness will strike. You're not invincible. And if you don't have insurance, who'll pay your bills? Do you have the money to pay $1,500 to fix a broken leg or $3,000 to stay in the hospital? Insurance gives you the peace of mind that, yes, most of your medical bills will be covered in case something happens.

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

    I don't know where they got the $1,500 figure to fix a broken arm, or $3k for a hospital stay. When I had day surgery to reattach the ligament to my thumb following a sports accident, my medical bills were over $36k – and I was in the hospital for all of six hours! My insurance paid the bulk of the bill, but I paid nearly $3k out of pocket (which BTW is my annual out of pocket cap).

    March 31, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  11. Malory Archer

    Ztarbod

    Pre-existing conditions could have addressed much more directly. The federal government already had a massive program for pre-existing conditions called Medicare.

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

    Yeah, and it works great if you're over 65. What about the under 65 crowd?

    March 31, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  12. rs

    Logic_Is_Not_Common_Sense

    Dean

    Obama's crowning achievement is a failure. Typical.
    __________________

    rs

    6 million enrollees and climbing. What can the GOP show for success in the past 6 years? A government shutdown or two? Typical
    ______________________________________________________________

    Hey rs.. You forgot to complete the equation... (6 million enrollees) – (those that haven't paid) – (those that had there insurance canceled) – (those that are getting medicaid under ACA, not private insurance) = net loss of those covered under (private) insurance, instead of more people that were suppose to get covered under ACA's private insurance scam.

    Granted, the GOP has done very little of anything over the past years... bragging about Ocare under the delu sion that it's a success is just, well, delu sional. It is an abysmal failure, unless your of the crowd "good is evil and evil is good"
    ____________________________
    Sorry- your proof? How about some real numbers about cancelled policies? How about a comparison of cancelled policies from say, the last decade- because as you may or may not know, insurance companies have always had (and exercised) the ability to cancel unwanted policies. Until you look at those number, you won't realize that there is virtually no difference over the last decade, and that while costs went up again this year, it was the lowest increase in more than 20 years.
    "Delusional" is believing the Koch brothers and their rancid ads, whom you might note, don't need health insurance at all.

    March 31, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  13. rs

    Ztarbod

    Pre-existing conditions could have addressed much more directly. The federal government already had a massive program for pre-existing conditions called Medicare.
    ________________________
    Great if your older than 65.

    March 31, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  14. rs

    Bill from GA

    A majority want to keep the provision eliminating lifetime caps, to allow children up to age 26 to remain on their parents' policies, and to keep the component that prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

    But, by a slight margin, Americans wanted to repeal the individual mandate, which is necessary to pay for the above.

    You righties should ask you repub Congressmen and Prez wannabees how that is going to work. Or ask Bill O'Reilly. Generally, repubs just add their goodies to the national debt, then blame the dems.
    _______________________________
    And don't forget, the so-called "individual mandate " was what the GOP insisted had to be in the ACA- it was from one of their handlers, the Heritage Foundation.

    March 31, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  15. Silence DoGood

    @rs
    sayer

    No one has a problem buying car insurance for their car. Why not buy health insurance for yourself?
    ___________________________
    In Rightland its all about "freedom". Freedom to die from preventable illness, freedom to go bankrupt from a hospitalization after a major illness, freedom to use the ER and dodge the bills and have the rest of society pay, the freedom from responsibility to take care of ones' self.

    More accurately it is their "freedom" to make no sense and lie their pants off about the ACA.
    --------------–
    Don't forget the freedom to join their specific radical right sect of their religion so you can be told to feel good about getting sick, bankrupt, and making no sense at all.

    March 31, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  16. Topgun 74

    If you are one of the young invincibles take the money you would have paid for Obamacare and stick it into savings. Don't allow Obama to steal your hard earned money to pay for others healthcare. If you do this by the time you retire you will have a nest egg of over a million dollars. If you do get sick you can use your savings to pay the bills until the next enrollment period. Then signup for insurance. After all they can't deny you coverage due to a pre-existing condition.

    March 31, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  17. Silence DoGood

    @Bill from GA
    "A majority want to keep the provision eliminating lifetime caps..."
    -------
    (hyperbole alert for Fox News fans) The Koch bros. don't see problem with lifetime caps. They have lots of money. The rest of us without millions have only themselves to blame for being sick.

    March 31, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  18. wayne shen

    Why doesn't any media report how most of our health insurance premiums have gone up 25-110% with less coverage as a result?!

    March 31, 2014 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  19. SouthernBelle

    I'm sick to death of people calling the Republicans hateful for not supporting the ACA. I'm a republican but my problem with it has nothing to do with my political affiliation; my problem is that my family's insurance, which is insanely expensive, just got $200 per month more expensive thanks to it. Stop acting like everyone who doesn't support Obamacare is prejudicial! I just want to be able to support my family. If you want to tell me $200/month isn't that big of a jump since i already had health insurance, I welcome you the opportunity to pay the difference for me.

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

    The real hoot here is watching the Right go nuts over the ACA- a bill that contains far more Republican ideas (including the individual mandate) that Democratic ones. Our side of the aisle wanted a single-payer option, the GOP had to have the Insurance industry in control. You guys got what you wanted, perhaps you all need to remember that.

    Meanwhile, instead of all this anti-government nonsense- perhaps you should offer up some concrete fixes to the ACA. If you really don't have any, well the time has long passed for you all to be quiet.

    March 31, 2014 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  21. bob_in_ny

    What people fail to see about the "Affordable Care Act" is that it is designed to spread outrageously high costs over a lifetime instead of analyzing the cause of ourageously high medical costs. It is as if we are all buying BMW's over a lifetime payment plan, when the people could do well to make do with a lesser stylish automobile. Every test, every treatment is driven by the insurance industry, in that no bill will be paid unless approved by insurance, rather than either the patient or the doctor. All prices are set by insurance companies, who were designed to make costs more affordable and manageable, but also build in a hard cost to the patient. We will cover the costs We set as fair, and we will spread the costs over time, BUT, we will also set what part should be yours alone to pay. Once they dictated the costs, the required tests and procedures, the amount you should pay for such coverage, AND set what the legal judgments should be in trials for malpractice and negligence, we are just the monopoly pieces to be played with by insurance, lawyers and the medical profession to move around the board and make their obscene profits. WE are just the ants in the glass, crawling through sand for their amusement and enrichment. We have been taken, and won't have any say in our lives as thiese mechanisms become more entrenched in our lives and in legislation.

    March 31, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  22. NatuticalMan

    Sorry, but have to laugh at those who say Obamacare is too Liberal ! The individual mandate was the idea of the Heritage foundation, as Conservative group as there is, and hailed by the Republican party as a responsible method and used as a major component for RomneyCare here in Massachusetts, where, regardless of what Gov. Romney and his party said, is the basis for the Afffordable Care Act. By the way, it has worked very well here. Denying fatherhood of this was just another messup by Mr. Romney...

    March 31, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  23. rs

    stephen douglas

    Polls can be set up to show whatever results one wants. Having said this, anyone who thinks government managed healthcare should go visit a couple VA Hospitals. God bless the staff at these places, they put up with a lot of chit, but the fact is they are over worked, underpaid, and the conditions are sometimes not so nice. That is what will ultimately happen to civilian hospitals as the dollars slow, the best people leave the industry, and cutbacks are made in care, supplies, etc., in order to make a profit. They will be overwhelmed with the new patients pouring in to take advantage of what will be more affordable health care, so, every scratch, every ding, every stomach ache will require a doctor's visit. Appointments will stretch to six, eight and ten months for checkups. You will wait for half and full days to see a doctor. It will not be pretty, but it will be cheaper....
    ________________________
    Nonsense! This year I had to wait 5 weeks to see my primary care physician- same as last year and the year before, and well beyond that.
    Look, the worst possible argument for not expanding access to health care I the United States (i.e. making the population more healthy) is that somehow more people will lead to longer wait times. Especially a foolish notion as the GOP claims the ACA is causing doctors to give up practices, and hospitals to close- a pretty stupid business model wouldn't you say?
    Meanwhile, know that the VA is the highest rated medical care by its patients. Now, also- look at who keeps cutting the VA's budget- and who controls their budget- why that would be the House GOP. When they say government supplied health care isn't good, they ought to know, they work to make it worse!

    March 31, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  24. Malory Archer

    Topgun 74

    If you are one of the young invincibles take the money you would have paid for Obamacare and stick it into savings. Don't allow Obama to steal your hard earned money to pay for others healthcare. If you do this by the time you retire you will have a nest egg of over a million dollars. If you do get sick you can use your savings to pay the bills until the next enrollment period. Then signup for insurance. After all they can't deny you coverage due to a pre-existing condition.

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

    What happens if you get sick or injured and your savings isn't enough to cover your medical expenses until the next enrollment period? Not only will you NOT have the $$$ to get well (is this where those "death panels" come in?), you won't have any $$$ to cover the premiums next enrollment.

    March 31, 2014 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  25. Dean

    Six million new enrollees, whether paid or not, minus the six million who lost their insurance due to ACA equals a lot of money spent to do nothing but raise the premiums and lower the benefits for most of those six million people. Not to mention putting more of those six million on Medicaid who will not be able to see their same doctors or even qualify for the same treatments or medicines. Or the closing of hospitals, clinic and doctors retiring because of ACA. If a company had been responsible for this kind of blunder, the CEO would have been long gone.

    March 31, 2014 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
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