Public support for President Barack Obama's health care law is languishing at its lowest level since passage of the landmark legislation four years ago, according to a new poll.
The Associated Press-GfK survey finds that 26 percent of Americans support the Affordable Care Act. Yet even fewer — 13 percent — think it will be completely repealed. A narrow majority expects the law to be further implemented with minor changes, or as passed.
The poll was taken before Thursday's announcement by the White House that new health insurance markets have surpassed the goal of 6 million sign-ups, so it did not register any of the potential impact of that news on public opinion. Open enrollment season began with a dysfunctional HealthCare.gov website last Oct. 1 but will end Monday on what looks to be a more positive note.
The poll found that much of the slippage for the health care law over the last four years has come from a drop in support, not an increase in opposition.
In April of 2010, soon after the law passed, 50 percent of Americans said they were opposed to it, while 39 percent were in favor. Ten percent were on the fence.
Now, just 26 percent say they are in favor, a drop of 13 percentage points. Forty-three percent say they are opposed, a drop of 7 percentage points since that poll four years ago. But the number who neither support nor oppose the law has tripled, to 30 percent.
The 26 percent in favor in the AP-GfK poll is not significantly different from the 27 percent registered in January and December.Democrats note that relatively few Americans support mere repeal. Jonathan Bernstein writes at Bloomberg View:
Does that mean Obamacare as a whole will soon be popular? No. For one, fewer than one in five believes the ACA has helped them personally and, as I’ve argued, we’re probably at peak awareness of the law's benefits right now. Even if the ACA works as well as supporters hope, many benefits will be either invisible to consumers or difficult for them to trace to the law. For example, many people won't realize that before the ACA they would have been excluded from insurance because of a pre-existing condition -- even a minor one. Meanwhile, anyone who has anything go wrong with their health insurance will find it easy to blame Obamacare.This analysis is sensible, except for the assertion that supporters "aren't mainly interested in making Obamacare popular." That is nonsense: consider the years of intense Democratic messaging on the subject.
There is also political asymmetry at work. Opponents of the ACA are dedicated (quite sensibly) to highlighting flaws and problems. Their goal is to make the law unpopular. But supporters aren’t mainly interested in making Obamacare popular; their goal is to make the law work well. Likewise, opponents target all voters, arguing the law is bad. Supporters have a different audience and message, targeting a small chunk of the population (the uninsured, mainly) and urging them to buy insurance.