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. Malory Archer


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


    If they DID have an alternative they're tell us, regardless of whether anyone is listening, and they would have enacted when they owned the house and senate lock, stock & barrell for 18 years.

    March 31, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  2. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    The gop/tea bag folks are a bunch of wimps! They have no ideas, no policies that work, all they do is complain. The Obamacare website has had issues, and their first response is to throw their hands up in the air and call it quits! Even though the 2012 presidential election was a referendum on Obamacare – WHICH THE PEOPLE SUPPORTED BY ELECTING PRESIDENT OBAMA TO A SECOND TERM – gop/tea bags continue to whine and moan and complain and obstruct.

    Remember this come November 4, 2014, folks: The gop/tea bags are a bunch of wimpy, whiny children who quit and have no faith in the American people.

    March 31, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  3. J. Duprey

    The last comment by the Polling Director of CNN is very telling. Everyone has already been affected by
    Obamacare! Obamacare taxes and unjustified premium increases over the last three years building up to 2014.
    Ask a small businessman.

    March 31, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  4. 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. Whoever designed / tested this website should be fired outright, they didn't stress / load test this system very well.

    March 31, 2014 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  5. Jayakumar

    I dont support the law because I want a federal option there, a government funded self-supported plan that could compete with private insurance people effectively. I am tired of being scammed by corporate america.

    March 31, 2014 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  6. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @CALIFORNIA: "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."

    Obamacare is a law that requires people get health insurance – what the Heritage Foundation designed and Newt Gingrich called having "skin in the game." The insurance itself is sold by free-market corporations, which are gaining millions of customers; if you can't keep your doctor, it's because those insurance companies are deciding which doctors and hospitals are in their networks. You got a problem with the free market making these decision?

    BTW, go live on food stamps and welfare if it's such a great deal.

    You are such a hateful fool, California.

    March 31, 2014 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  7. Pat Courchene

    As a supporter of President Obama and national health care, I am so disappointed with the "Affordable Care Act". It is neither affordable nor provides real care. For low income people which is the growing segment of the US population, even with the tax breaks, you can only afford the "junk" policies with a $6,000 yearly deductible which, of course, most people never reach before December 31st. A windfall for the insurance companies again who will hardly ever have to pay out for most people. You could always get these kind of rip off policies and now a law makes you buy one of them. A big rip off mess again with the money brokers raking it in again.. The insurance lobby sure did their job.

    March 31, 2014 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  8. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @-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"

    The individual mandate was designed by the Heritage Foundation, first implemented by a repub governor (Mittens) and was considered essential (by Gingrich) because it made people have "skin in the game."

    BTW, how does the government gain political power when free-market insurance companies sell and manage the policies and gain millions of new customers?


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


    Gotta love the libs still trying to defend there king.
    No one needs to defend Elvis.

    March 31, 2014 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  10. Bob O.

    I'm sick and tired of BOTH the left and right shouting out at the top of their lungs their views. It's all noise. Bottom Line: If you lose your existing plan (like I did), if you new plan is more expensive with either copay or deductible (like mine, especially for Rx), if my MD drop my new plan, or if there is a $5.5 Billion bailout of the Insurance Companies, like Forbes has estimated for 2015, then Obamacare is a disaster and failure.

    March 31, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  11. sayer

    No one has a problem buying car insurance for their car. Why not buy health insurance for yourself?

    March 31, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  12. Fact

    Why is there no real analysis of what this "coverage" means for individuals who are being forced to sign up for programs with deductibles that are so far out of reach for the typical citizen that it amounts to catestrophic only coverage that will exhaust most of thier personal savings before the insurance actually kicks in?

    Love them or hate them this law was passed without being read by people who made promises that the law does not deliver on.

    March 31, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  13. Tony

    Burbank, you are exempt from the ACA fine if the lowest-priced coverage that you can find would cost more than 8% of your income. $540 per month is equal to $6,480 a year, which is 12.96% of your income. This means that you don't have to pay a fine even if you don't buy insurance. You may qualify for a hardship exemption under the ACA, which will allow you to buy a catastrophic plan.

    March 31, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |

    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.
    Not a conspiracy. Just letting everyone know how they can play the system legally.

    March 31, 2014 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  15. Jacob Smith

    My opinion for obamacare is that i sure won't have it. There's no since in it when he can only run for president like 1 more year to begin with. They need to hurry up and get a new president in there.

    March 31, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  16. Patience Dixon

    Obamacare is overall a unfavorable health care insurance. But I don't like it either I don't someone should be forced to have insurance. I think it's unfair to fine people every year for not having insurance. The government wants to go through with the care but want some changes in it. But most Americans have been unaffected by the new health care law.

    March 31, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |

    ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.
    @CALIFORNIA: "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."

    Obamacare is a law that requires people get health insurance – what the Heritage Foundation designed and Newt Gingrich called having "skin in the game." The insurance itself is sold by free-market corporations, which are gaining millions of customers; if you can't keep your doctor, it's because those insurance companies are deciding which doctors and hospitals are in their networks. You got a problem with the free market making these decision?

    BTW, go live on food stamps and welfare if it's such a great deal.

    You are such a hateful fool, California.
    One spouse on it the other works. Just get divorced is all you need to do.

    Hey it's you democrats that are pushing everyone towards doing it.

    Take the incentive away is what you people do.

    March 31, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |

    Obamacare has been a mirror image of Obama himself. No one was allowed to know what was in it, when it got put in place it limped along for years in obscurity and lies, then when it finally kicked in it immediately crashed and no one wants it around anymore

    March 31, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  19. Logic_Is_Not_Common_Sense


    Obama's crowning achievement is a failure. Typical.


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

    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"

    March 31, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  20. 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.

    March 31, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |

    Silence DoGood

    That was a pathetic attempt at deflection.

    March 31, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  22. JL

    Here's my analysis of paragraph 3.
    Polling shows that when it comes to the freebies, like keeping "kids" on their parent's plan until they are 26 years old and forcing insurance companies to take customers that are guaranteed to lose them money... the plan is very popular. But.... when it comes to reality, like who's going to pay for everyone who is sick and can't pay for their own insurance and giving up freedoms and the right to not buy something without being penalized, increased government control and layers upon layers of added confusion and bureaucracy, the plan is unpopular.

    March 31, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |

    No taxes on the middle class. Yeah Obamacare busted that one wide open.

    March 31, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  24. Destiny Stamp

    Not many people can afford Obomacare. This could be one of the reasons so many people disagree with it.

    March 31, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  25. Bubba

    I was just in India on a business trip, and my counter part in India told me that; "If you poll three Americans on any issue, you will get seven opinions. Americans are 'angry' that way."
    My counterpart is a professional, who own many factories which benefit from the lack of united positions by the American voters. The more we fight, the less we complete on the World stage, the more he profits. Conflict is costly, whether you choose to see it, or not.
    Thus, the GOP takes $2 out of the pockets of Americans, for every $1 they give back in Lower Taxes. America once paid many times what we pay in taxes today, during an era known as the good ol days. The dollar was backed by silver and gold back then, and high taxes did not stop America from becoming the largest economy on the planet.
    Infighting is harming America more than taxes, as history shows, and the GOP seem to be the only ones benefiting from the fighting.
    So blame whoever you want, but if you continue to fight, you will continue to PAY. Time to stop being so "angry".

    March 31, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
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