Wednesday, August 20, 2014
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Obamacare Is More Popular than Polls May Suggest

Conventional wisdom has it that Obamacare is widely unpopular. Many see the outcome of the midterm elections as evidence of the public's disfavor. But look closely at the polls, and they tell a different story.

Obamacare Is More Popular than Polls May Suggest

By guest blogger Robert Field:

Conventional wisdom has it that Obamacare is widely unpopular. The public, we are repeatedly told, doesn’t want it and there is a groundswell of opinion in favor of scrapping it completely. Many see the outcome of the midterm elections as evidence of the public’s disfavor.

But look closely at the polls, and they tell a different story. To be sure, the law continues to engender substantial opposition, and a sizeable portion of the electorate would like to see it repealed. However, many of its provisions enjoy significant popular support.

Take, for example, the AP-GfK Poll conducted November 3 – 8. When asked whether they approved or disapproved of Obamacare, respondents gave it a thumbs down by 47 to 38%. But when asked what to do about it, total repeal also proved unpopular, gaining the support of only 31% of respondents. A larger proportion, 38%, wanted to keep the law as is or even to expand it.

 The most recent Gallup poll tells a similar story. Forty-nine percent favored keeping or expanding the law, while 42% supported repeal. Of those calling for repeal, a majority, 60%, wanted something in its place, rather than outright abandonment of reform.

 The Kaiser Family Foundation’s latest tracking poll provided a more detailed view. By a margin of 34 to 25%, respondents said that health reform will make them worse off rather than better off, but 40% wanted to keep or expand it while only 24% favored total repeal.

When Kaiser asked about individual provisions of the law, large majorities favored keeping many of them. These included small business and low-income subsidies for purchasing insurance and guaranteed coverage for those with preexisting medical conditions. In fact, some provisions drew strong support even among those who said they favor total repeal.

Because this year’s electorate tended to be more conservative than the population as a whole, attitudes among those who voted were more negative toward reform. A November Rasmussen poll found that likely voters supported repeal by a margin of 55 to 44%. The gap between likely voters and the general population helps to explain the way health care played out in the election.

Put these polls together, and you find clear support for many elements of Obamacare. The law as a whole receives mixed reviews, but for most of the population, blanket repeal is not the preferred option. This is a far cry from the “widely unpopular” law that many perceive health reform to be.

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About this blog

Check Up covers major health events in our region and offers everything from personal health advice to an expert look at health reform. Read about some of our bloggers here.

For Inquirer.com. Portions of this blog may also be found in the Inquirer's Sunday Health Section

Robert I. Field, Ph.D., J.D., M.P.H. Professor, School of Law & Drexel School of Public Health
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