March 31st, 2014
12:38 PM ET
9 years 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.

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More trouble for 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, 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

"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. Iab

    Such bias, low information remarks. Obama DID ask GOP for input when suggesting ACA, the chose NOT TO b/c they had already agreed to say NO (meeting GOP/TP had the night Obama was sworn into office) to everything Obama wanted to do for the American PPl. Many of you ned to do some research, get correct facts. ACA has certain standards, guidelines such as can't throw ppl off once limit is reached, deny insurance due to preexisting conditions, etc. These insurance companies threw ppl off b/c they did not want help these older sick people, something to that affect. The GOP has had no constructive solutions to any of our problems whether unemployment, women's rights, immigration, gun control, our war vets, creating jobs, (repairing our infrastructure) polluting/destroying our air, land, water.

    The GOP/TP have been bought by the likes of Sheldon Adelson, Koch Bros, lobbyist who are paid for by the 2% who want NO regulations, gun control, want high unemployment, fewer educated Americans, no rights for women. They only want WAR yet none of their young men/women sign up to die for our country. The 2% that wants t control everything only loves money, control, power. I pray each day the American People wake up, let the GREEDY ONES who really hate America know OUR VOTE AND WE ARE NOT FOR SALE. The GOP/TP venom, division, theory of DIVIDE & CONQUER is not working even in the RED STATES. All Americans are hurting due to the GOP/TP ideology, ideals that offer no constructive, workable solutions in order to solve our problems. Trickle DOWN ECON has been proven NOT to work. We can not afford another war. The GOP controlled House, lobbyist, wealthy 2% are bleeding America dry. The dumb ones believe it's the poor, people of color, unemployed, disabled vets, women, etc are to blame. They brainwash the less informed/educated how ever they are even waking up due to Moral Monday/Saturdays that are moving across the Southern States, even MIssouri real soon, another state that is GOP controlled even though Mo. has a Dem for a governor. This red states has cut funds for the hungry children in the state.

    March 31, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  2. smith

    @Rudy-Most policies before the ACA would go up a buck or two a month every year. They didn`t go up $50-150 like when the ACA went into effect. Btw, while talking about smokers and alcohol, should overweight people pay more? What about pot users?

    March 31, 2014 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  3. The REAL Truth...

    @woobles – There's good in Obamacare? When did that happen? All the people who seem to think Obamacare is awesome DON'T HAVE IT.
    Do you have it? Let's just repeal the entire law then. Instead of looking at what can be fixed, just get rid of it. Then you can go back to REALLY paying for the folks who go to the ER and don't pay. You can go back to being ripped off (for profit reasons) when your lifetime coverage limit is met, or you have a pre-existing condition, or are over 65 and considered too much of a risk by an actuary looking to maximize shareholder value. You can go back to paying your "share" of usual and customary. You can go back to NOT choosing your doctor – unless they take your insurance PPO, HMO, blah, blah plan (something the anti-ACA crowd are whining about). You can go back to 15%+ annual premium increases and price fixing for drug tiers.. but hey.. that's what the GOP wants..

    March 31, 2014 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  4. Fair is Fair


    Universal healthcare coverage


    Single-payer is what is needed.

    And eventually it will be shown that even the current ACA that still uses insurance-company middlemen is unsustainable.
    Single-payer? You mean like Medicare? Well, here's a clue. Medicare still uses insurance company middlemen as well, it's just overseen by another level of federal bureaucracy known as the Centers for Medicare Services, or CMS.

    March 31, 2014 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  5. Dennis

    The main issue to me is that The So Called AFFORDABLE CARE ACT is NOT Affordable. In California a Silver plan is $711.00 a month/$8532.00 a year and you still have Co-Pays and an out of Pocket of $6000.00 a year for a total of $14532.00 a year. In what Fantasy World is that Affordable??? Prior to this when I searched Health care it was cheaper. Sadly Obama lied to get re-elected only, not to help the majority of America.

    March 31, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  6. Dave in Arizona

    People love what it offers but hate paying the cost for it.
    There's a shocker.

    And of course polls are going to indicate a dislike of it. Republicans have spent the last year blaming Obamacare for the actions of insurance companies. Repeat something enough and a lot of people really do begin to believe it.

    March 31, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  7. jerome

    Obamacare, brought to you by the same party that gave you the Federal Income Tax.

    March 31, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  8. iReason

    Good? Anyone saying that anything good has come from this mess is either a liar or not aware of the impact on millions of individuals. Dramatically increased premiums and/or deductibles, fewer doctors, hospitals and labs accepting the policies you can buy, annual premium will likely continue at double digit pace making it even more difficult for those of us who buy our own insurance to keep up, and businesses large and small will pay the same penalty – many will likely look for ways to cut employee hours so that they do not qualify for insurance (as is happening now). THIS IS A MESS and we are all sitting back and congratulating them for getting 6 million enrolled, who may or may not pay their premiums.

    Thank or "leaders" for another major slap to middle america.

    March 31, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  9. Nick

    Obamacare is what happens when ideology and thirst for political power trump reality and capability. That it had to be forced through on bribes and procedural maneuvering tells you it was a nightmare when passed. Liberals are good at passing laws and horrible when it comes to governing. The country will now pay for that mistake.

    March 31, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |

    Silence DoGood
    @Malory Archer
    More people have lost their insurance than have gained insurance.
    Only in red states where the reds have REFUSED to even start up an exchange – and that's by design.
    Most of the people the right wingers are claiming "lost" insurance were switched to other policies.
    When I am up for a new cell phone, I trade up. I guess you could say I "lost" my old phone but that is deceptive. You know like a white-lie, half truth, deception, misdirection, sham, loose thinking that the "moral" right is all about.
    But California, you just keep spreading the lie and clutching your security blanket. Progress are not going away.
    First off your analogy of using a cell phone plan is extremely lame (my opinion of course). Not all traded up. Some actually lost critical care they desperately needed. Second they were told they could keep it and that in fact was/is a lie. There's too many lies about Obamacare to even count anymore.

    March 31, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    somebody posted:

    Personal information. You mean like, are you a smoker, or does someone in your household smoke? Nasty habit. The cigarrettes cost more than the premium increase. Smokers should pay more. They should check for alcoholism, too.

    Blaming every increase in premiums on the ACA is not only misleading, but it is very dishonest. Rates have been increasing since the beginning of time. Your rates would increase with or without the ACA. In fact, rates have been increasing at a measureably smaller rate since the ACA was enacted.


    What about personal information like age? How should we underwrite the young insured?
    Yup, that, too. You see, there are people who would lead you to believe that buying health insurance is just like buy a loaf of bread, or a gallon of gas. They want to tell you that gaoline is cheaper just across the state line, but the evil liberals in this country won't let you cross the state line to come and buy it. You would have to totally not paying attention to fail for that.

    Buying health insurance is not at all like buying a loaf of bread. It's more like buying auto insurance. The insurance rate is based upon your individual and personal circumstances such as: your age; where you live: smoking and other factors. You will still be the same person no matter which state you buy insurance.

    But, there are those who hope that you cannot figure that out for yourself. Most all of them are Republican politicians.

    March 31, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  12. quinLee

    1. Misinformation and Voter ignorance over the law benefits the GOP:

    March 31, 2014 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  13. len


    It will not be repealed.

    March 31, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  14. Lucas

    Why did we pass this stupid law in the first place? For every problem is solves it causes dozens more!!!

    March 31, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  15. Silence DoGood

    The liberal media hopes it will not be repealed! But it will be repealed and we will laugh in your face when it is!
    Yes I remember the Great Glorious Right Wing triumph in repealing Social Security and Medicare!
    Oh wait.....

    March 31, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  16. MJ

    62. Have not had insurance for over 5 years. Was paying over $1,000/Month with a $5,000 Deductible. No medical problems other than HBP under control. Have paid all my own medical bills. The new costs with the ACA were much higher and the deductibles are beyond control. Have to hold out for Medicare (if it isn't completely robbed) for Insurance.

    March 31, 2014 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    Rudy NYC
    "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."

    >Personal information. You mean like, are you a smoker, or does someone in your household smoke? Nasty habit. The >cigarrettes cost more than the premium increase. Smokers should pay more. They should check for alcoholism, too.

    Testing? So you would be for drug testing as well as a part of Obamacare? BTW, it was not just about smoking. It asked about actual medical test information. Information that only my doctor and know. Now my company feels it is entitled to this information.

    >Blaming every increase in premiums on the ACA is not only misleading, but it is very dishonest. Rates have been >increasing since the beginning of time. Your rates would increase with or without the ACA. In fact, rates have been >increasing at a measureably smaller rate since the ACA was enacted.

    Your statement is total BS, which is why I replied to the original poster who claimed their costs had increased little or not at all. For that to have happened, other things in the plan would have had to change to make up for the additional costs. Employers are not going to absorb nearly a 20% yearly increase on their own.

    Supporters of Obamacare claim it has reduced healthcare spending and that is a total lie. What has reduced healthcare spending is the miserable economy and people not spending on optional medical items because they don't know where this stagnant economy is going.

    March 31, 2014 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  18. Gwen W.

    The people opposing an individual mandate all have insurance–by choice, unless they are over 26 or under 26 and unable to get insurance through a parent's plan, single; and listening to the Republicans (who all have insurance for themselves and their families!) tell them not to buy health insurance, and who counsel them against their own interests for political purposes. Bring on the 29-year-old uninsured son of a Republican lawmaker.

    March 31, 2014 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  19. jeanht

    The ACA was created to get affordable health care to those 50+ million who did not have it. We still have 45 to 48 million people who do not have health care. The ACA has not succeeded in its mission.

    March 31, 2014 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  20. Rob

    Gotta love the libs still trying to defend there king. Lair Obama,. Now they are trying to blame the GOP for the Obamacare trash that THEIR people voted for and forced on us. It is way past time to stop blaming Bush for Obama's incompetence and lying. Obama and the DEMS own this junk and all the propaganda in the world won't change that.

    March 31, 2014 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  21. Silence DoGood

    Obamacare, brought to you by the same party that gave you the Federal Income Tax.
    wikipedia: "An income tax amendment to the Constitution was first proposed by Senator Norris Brown of Nebraska" He was Republican.

    This is a classic example of how conservatives feel free to follow the "make stuff up" morality. Do you really think the smart folks won't check?

    March 31, 2014 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  22. Johnny 5

    Obamacare will go down the tubes just like Clinton's Health Security Act of 1993. We didn't need healthcare reform, we needed insurance company reform if anything. Obamacare equals the largest one time tax increase in U.S. history and people lined up to cheer it on.

    "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan" (Psst...well not everybody can)


    March 31, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  23. Jerry

    The republicans have an alternative to this mess but NOONE wants to hear it because of their blind bigotry...

    March 31, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Malory Archer
    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.
    And if that doesn't happen next year, you're certain it'll happen the year after that, or maybe the year after that, or the year after that. Or maybe you've been listeining to those who want it to fail for so long that you've come to take speculation as gospel.

    You appear to live in some fantasy world where employers absorb the costs of healthcare increases all on their own. There WAS a 19% increase from the year before. They agreed to waive it THIS year, but the starting point for the next sign up WILL be the higher amount. No sane person would expect their employer to be eating these costs all on their own.

    19% increase is not a small amount. Obamacare has done nothing to lower MY healthcare insurance. And now I am paying for many others on Medicaid. Obamacare is the biggest screw job ever for the working middle class.

    March 31, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  25. April

    No caps, no more uninsured because you were born with something or were unlucky enough to get something. It's good coverage. The law could use improvements. Obama wanted 8 million, he has 9.5. My 28 year old pays 1.00 a month because he makes min wage- his premium will rise as his income rises, or he can go buy private or, he can pay the 250 a year penalty.

    March 31, 2014 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
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