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. Tampa Tim

    We pretty much knew that as the deadline drew near, having exhausted legal challenges, government shutdowns, 54 attempts to repeal ACA, $800 million in negative advertising, that the Kochs, Fox, and low information voters would be out in full force.

    March 31, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  2. bcrunner

    @TonyD: Can you tell us what was right and good about the existing system? All I remember was insurance companies dropping people left and right. You got insurance and the moment they paid for something it became a pre-existing condition. One big illness and you were over the limit and you could not get insurance again.. The biggest reason people were filing for bankruptsy was due to health care bills... Emergency rooms closing down at hospitals because they could not handle all the uninsured that streamed in every day.... I had and still have my policy through my work and nothing has changed except I got the smallest ever increase in my premium... I say good job Obamacare!!

    March 31, 2014 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  3. Tampa Tim

    My Florida Blue stayed the same, and I live in a red state with the worst governor in America, a legislature who gave insurance companies a blank check to raise the premiums as much as they want. Maybe the insurance company did not want to have to write me a check at the end of the year.

    March 31, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  4. Dean

    This legislation should be renamed...from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to the Economic Stagnation and Job Loss Act.

    Today, the CBO released a report stating that the ACA will cause Americans to work fewer hours...the equivalent of 2 million fewer jobs in 2017. This number is three times higher than the budget office's previous prediction, and it's expected to rise to the equivalent of 2.5 million jobs in 2024.

    Thanks, Obama. Your socialist dream is slowly coming true.

    March 31, 2014 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |

    Breath and Release

    I was born and raised here therefor I'll use it if I choose.

    March 31, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |

    If anyone other than democrats bring up solutions they dismiss them as they can't work or it wouldn't do anything hence their ignorance and sheer stupidity in the issue.

    March 31, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |

    Democrats answer is Obamacare which is a FAILURE.

    Try again liberals.

    March 31, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  8. The REAL Truth...

    @Tony D – 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.
    Wow, no wonder the GOP want folks like this.. the ignorance is undeniable.
    First.. There was nothing right with the existing system, unless you are an insurance company exec making $$$.
    2nd – most of ACA, including the defined plans, exchanges and the individual mandate are conservative ideas from both ROmneycare and that bastion of liberal ideology the Heritage Foundation.
    3rd – the law was not written by liberals behind closed doors. The GOP were invited, and refused to attend any hearings as part of their plan to make Obama a one-term President.
    4th – ACA does not give, nor require the Federal Govt to invade anyone's health plan and life.. that is ALL up to the insurance company plans.. which are no different than they are today.
    5th – the biggest lie and fraud ever perpetrated on the American people is that the GOP will do something better for you.
    Wise up.. get educated.

    March 31, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  9. Tampa Tim

    The biggest lie ever perpetuated on the American people is a tie between the reasons to go to war in air aw under W and trickle down economics.

    March 31, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  10. Malory Archer


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


    Teddy Roosevelt enacted the federal income tax. He was a republican.

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

    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.
    Yeah, except that Bob Dole isn't mean enough to be a member of the GOP anymore. They'd snort and call him a RINO.

    March 31, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  12. smith

    @Tampa Tim-3%? Where did you get that from, Mother Jones?

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

    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.
    That's it!!! You have got the next Conspiracy Theory. After Death Panels and Birth Certificate, where can you go? "Obama wants everyone to get divorced". And live in Area 51. With the aliens.

    March 31, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  14. demfromsc

    Thanks for your comment Tampa Tim. I agree with you that "low information voters" are the problem – it is somewhat hilarious that most polls show that the majority of people like the individual parts of Obamacare but claim to dislike the whole (as a result of multiple outright lies by right-wing attack dogs). Unfortunately for the GOP, the more people learn about Obamacare, the better they like it. I can't understand why people think they want their health-care choices to be made by insurance company bureaucrats with a profit motive – do you really want to be denied care so that the CEO can make even more money?

    March 31, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  15. Gunderson

    Tampa Tim says the average increase in health costs is 3 percent. So what happened to that 2800 dollar reduction "Obummy" talked about? But hey "Suckers" we gonna jam that square peg in that round hole yet! And it's only gonna cost you triple! I'm guessing the Apologists for Obama are going to say we haven't had time yet for it to take full effect. No kidding dick Tracy, what gave you your First Clue?

    March 31, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  16. Tony

    TONY D: "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."


    One of the ironies of your post, Tony D, is that you believe this law came from "a bunch of far left liberals". Sorry, that's WRONG. Obama care–formerly known as Romney care is a Republican idea and concept. The Left initially DID want to do single-payer, however there was so much uproar, and Obama wanted to bring everyone together, so he offered to use the Republican plan rather than what "far left liberals" wanted–and he made them pretty upset in doing so, but it was a peace-offering–and effort to bring everyone together.

    Granted, the right didn't want to play with Obama, no matter what he offered. But that's the truth, not the bogus stuff you claim.

    Speaking of bogus stuff, the level of hyperbole in your last sentence is quite remarkably high. Drama queen much?

    March 31, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  17. Malory Archer

    Hey reds, Bill Cassidy, the red hoping to unseat Lousisana Senator Mary Landreau says the uninusred are illiterate. LOL – give a red a microphone and a platform and they'll tell the people they're trying to reach EXACTLY what they think of them!

    March 31, 2014 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  18. rs

    Tom I-
    "The Koch Industries subsidiary holds leases on 1.1 million acres - an area nearly the size of Delaware - in the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada, according to an activist group that studied Alberta provincial records. The Post confirmed the group’s findings with Alberta Energy, the provincial government’s ministry of energy. Separately, industry sources familiar with oil sands leases said Koch’s lease holdings could be closer to two million acres. The companies with the next biggest net acreage positions in oil sands leases are Conoco Phillips and Shell, both close behind."
    Washington Post, 3/20/14 Apology accepted anytime.

    March 31, 2014 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  19. Iab

    What one must realize is a POLLING COMPANY has extensive demographics. You can hire a polling company to get you any results YOU want. If one wants favorable numbers when it come to fed tax cuts, higher tax the polling company will only poll based on the demographics ppl who make over a certain amount of $$S, those who live in very expensive houses, areas. They sure wouldn't poll working/middle class areas. Polling companies are in business to make money, get the results you want. It is very hard to find a polling company that is 100% objective. Most are owned by wealthy people. I'd have more faith in some less wealthy person who is in it for the TRUTH rather than dollars. Christie said the people in Iowa love him, yet the polls in Iowa say just the opposite.

    March 31, 2014 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  20. The Republican Party Is Dead To Me

    It's a shame the number of people against this bill, only because some dummy in the media hung the moniker of Obama Care on it. If it were named after a republican, the republicans would be spouting about how good it is, and how it would be treasonous to think otherwise.

    March 31, 2014 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  21. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    From the UnitedHealthCare website FAQ:

    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.

    Q. If I get sick but don't have the money to pay, won't doctors and hospitals treat me?
    A. Yes, most doctors and hospitals will treat you, but they will aggressively pursue collection of your unpaid medical bills by turning your account over to a collection agency. Yes, some hospitals write off a certain amount of care each year, called "indigent care," but if you or your family fail to meet strict requirements, they'll come after you to pay. Somebody will pay - either you as a paying patient in the form of higher medical bills, or taxpayers.

    This from a free-market company; who are you going to listen to: Them or the gop/tea bag hacks whose #1 stated goal is to make President Obama fail?

    March 31, 2014 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  22. smith

    @Rudy- How in the world do you get that being overweight is a pre-existing condition? Weight gain can be controlled except in cases of surgery, medication, and pregancy.

    March 31, 2014 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  23. Tampa Tim

    Earlier today a super sensitive wingnut nut said that the Kochs have nothing to do with Keystone. Yet, they bought 1.1 million acres in Canada adjacent to the tar sand site. They may have a reason to get the pipeline up and running.

    March 31, 2014 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  24. Malory Archer


    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.


    Tell me what state you live in and I'll tell you WHY your premiums are increasing by so much and so quickly.

    March 31, 2014 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |

    Democrats offer up Obamacare as the solution yet all they've offered up is FAILURE.

    March 31, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
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