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. Kristine

    I'm sure if Obama had not lied to us repeatedly just to get would have maybe been more popular...or at least wouldn't be sinking the democrats.

    March 31, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  2. joy

    Health Care Fatigue is mild a term from what is really happening. Why hasn't the articles in CNN and other media sites including what a representative feels now when we are working with facilitators from the insurance carriers and getting only a fraction of their pay and doing the same work? Where are the agents to tell their stories?

    March 31, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  3. Tampa Tim

    It appears that the brain dead factually challenged right wingnuts are getting a tad testy. They got no plan for healthcare, but they sure know how to shut down government to the tune of $24 billion.

    March 31, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  4. Burbank

    I stil can't afford it. Now I will get fined for being white, old and too poor to pay $540 per month for Obamacare, that's the cheapest policy available to me. Of course being white, single and 63 and making about $50K per year, I don't qualify for any help. They don't factor in how far $50K goes on California cost of living. My rent alone is over $1000 per month!

    March 31, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |

    Democrats will NOT run their campaigns on this as Pelosi has stated. UNLESS they want to lose by even more than they already will.

    March 31, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  6. Tampa Tim

    The average premium increase since ACA was passed is 3%.

    March 31, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  7. Randy, San Francisco

    Despite a rocky start, the Affordable Health Care program is here to stay. Millions of uninsured Americans wil have health care coverage. Along with Medicare and Social Security, it will become a part of the third rail of politics. Republicans cannot lay claim to any credit of creating a program that benefits so many.

    March 31, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  8. bobo

    Obamacare was rammed through with LIES! If Obama and the Democrats didn't lie.... the Law Never would have passed!

    March 31, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC


    All I know is that I used to have healthcare and now I don't. My plan doesn't exist anymore, and the most similar plan is more than double what I was paying before (went from $220 a month to nearly $500 a month).

    Moreover I can't even get on the website to browse plans, because everytime I click the Browse Plans button I get a pop-up saying this feature is not working yet and to call them... and when you call them all they want to do is get you off the phone.. Such a mess.
    That's by design. I'd bet that you're living in a state not participating in the expansion of Medicaid. Take it up with your governor and your state legislature. Folks in the states that do participate have more choices, and so they are saving significant sums of money because of the increased competition.

    Somehow, I just don't believe you when you say "used to have it, and now I don't." Nope, don't believe it.

    March 31, 2014 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  10. Silence DoGood

    @Tampa Tim
    It appears that the brain dead factually challenged right wingnuts are getting a tad testy. They got no plan for healthcare, but they sure know how to shut down government to the tune of $24 billion.
    The right wing desperation campaign against progress is two-fold now. All the money, doubling down over and over is on the myth that ACA will fail on it's own, and of course sabotaging and lying to make it seem so.

    After that all that is left is the Conspiracy Theory Angle. We will see the Tin Foil Hats out strong if it comes to that.

    March 31, 2014 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  11. Jay

    GOP like the old Healthcare plan better where children were denied coverage due to pre existing conditions. GOP do not even support kids anymore. They are a hateful bunch.

    March 31, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  12. Vince

    You forgot #6. Regardless of 1 – 5, it's the law. So get compliant by midnight, or pay your fine.

    March 31, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  13. GTS58

    In the final analysis, the ACA simply "can not work in its present form" and will require major modification or complete repeal. It simply is not sustainable. And the White House continue to provide faulty and misleading data (lies) on the progress of the ACA. Taking over 1/6th of the economy was a terrible and unnecessary overreach by Obama.

    March 31, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  14. Taken4granted

    1) Why is nobody complaining about the pediatric dental care premium that does not cover you and me? This should be a class action suit waiting to happen, hello lawyers? Couples (young or old) who do not have children should NOT be subject to pay extra premium for someone else.
    2) Why I should pay a healthcare coverage based on my income? Yes it is a healthcare tax law. But I should not be subject to an IRS scrutiny of my income.
    3) The old plans work for most people without paying for someone else. Do you think the insurance companies will go back and reinstate these plans? I do not think so. So WH is blowing smoke trying to calm the majority that they can get the old insurance plan they had.
    4) When your deductible is so HIGH and premium is not reasonable, it gives an impression that it is affordable, when it is not.

    March 31, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  15. vrim

    Loyal republicans, start asking your lawmaker hard questions. When he/'she tells you that the ACA is going to fail and is going to ruin your lives and destroy the country, ask him/her what they have in mind to help you get health coverage so you can go to the doctor without draining your personal finances.

    March 31, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  16. Tony D

    Tampa Tim
    It appears that the brain dead factually challenged right wingnuts are getting a tad testy. They got no plan for healthcare,

    Well, the first test of ANY change is don't destroy what is right and good about the existing system. Democrats didn't have that as their first test. Their first decision was blow everything up and let a bunch of far left liberal politicians build a 'better' system behind closed doors, because after all, they know how everything should work and who should pay for what. You see, if they only fixed the problems, then they wouldn't be able to have the federal government invade everybody's personal healthcare plans and life.

    Obamacare? No. ObamaSCAM, yes.

    The biggest lie and fraud ever perpetrated on the American people.

    March 31, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  17. sonny chapman

    But Sarah Palin told us there were Death Panels ?

    March 31, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  18. strangerq

    Gotta love the libs still trying to defend there king.

    ^ You sound frustrated.

    Over 6 million signed and the numbers surging will do that I guess.

    March 31, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |

    Divorce your spouse (if he or she isn't working) and just milk the system for Food stamps, welfare and now Obamacare. It's obviously what the government is pushing everyone to.

    Incentive is gone.

    March 31, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  20. Tony

    There's been so much laser focus on hatred on this law (and mostly because of the underlying irrational hatred of Obama), that we should realize a big part of its perceived short-comings is simply because of the magnitude of MUD thrown at this law. Those against it (those against Obama) have spent A LOT of money to bring this thing down, and they've succeeding to come degree, in lowing public opinion of it.

    But what I notice is, the more the law goes into affect, the better it is perceived in the polls. The more people actually investigate it and experience it, the better it does.

    Since the law is not fully in affect until 2018, Republicans have been and continue to work very hard while the law is so young and not fully implemented to throw all the mud they can at it, hoping it will stick.

    What I see is a microcosm of 2009-2010, when they also road a huge (self-created) wave of negativity over health care law to sucker people into voting GOP and getting their faithful riled up to do so. The same is happening now, one last attempt to be successful in mid-terms and before the truth of the ACA is fully known.

    We really should not fall for it again, though the real struggle here is simply that the GOP/Tea peeps are mobilized with their hatred and typically Dems don't turn out to vote nearly as much in mid-terms. It gives the GOP/Tea peeps an advantage and we shouldn't just sit by and let them have it.

    Lies and half truths should never be allowed to prevail.

    March 31, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  21. sonny chapman

    If the Law were renamed the Bob Dole/Heritage Personal Responsibility health Care Act, it would gain 50% increase in Repub.Approval Rating.

    March 31, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC


    @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?
    Pot smokers should declare themselves as smokers. They don't ask what you smoke, just whether or not you do. Obesity just might be considered a pre-existing condition, which would make asking about it unlawful.

    March 31, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  23. strangerq

    someone wrote:

    In the final analysis, the ACA simply "can not work in its present form" and will require major modification or complete repeal

    ^ 2 problems.

    1_ You offered no analysis, you simply made an empty claim.

    2_ You put quotes around words with no attribution – which means you're quoting yourself.

    You are not debating – you are *whining*.

    March 31, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  24. Namelinda

    Big companies and theit CEOs make millions of dollars off slave labor we call minimum wage. Why complain about the Affordable Care Act and businesses paying for employee health care. Surely big companies can afford it or could it be that this will cut into their big money profits and pay and that is why so many oppose this new health care law. Greed in this country of a few will lead to the destruction of many.

    March 31, 2014 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  25. Breath and Release

    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
    ------- Got ANY proof? -----
    ------- Stop using the name "California", you do not speak for the state. Not even close. ------
    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.
    ------- And? (as in "do you have any solutions?")

    Complaining and Criticism doesn't take any effort and even less brain cells, think about solutions. By the way, not everything is a problem, try listening to the other side once in a while.

    March 31, 2014 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
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