No question: The Affordable Care Act (ACA) doesn’t poll well. In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll out Wednesday, only 37 percent of those surveyed reported a “generally favorable” opinion of the law, compared to 42 percent with an unfavorable opinion.
The same results apply with somewhat different questions asked; for example, pluralities said that the law will make both them and the nation “worse off.” There’s no sign, either, that attitudes about the ACA are shifting in favor of the law.
Yet defunding Obamacare, the big Republican cause of the moment, is even more unpopular. By a margin of 57 percent to 36 percent, poll respondents did not approve of “cutting off funding to implement” the ACA. This fits perfectly with a point that my colleague Greg Sargent of The Washington Post has made for some time: Many who don’t like Obamacare also don’t like the Republican plan to simply repeal it. We can now add defunding to that list.
Trying to sort all of that out isn’t easy. We know from other Kaiser polls that far more people report liking individual portions of the ACA than liking the law. We know that some who disapprove of the law do so because they want MORE, not less, reform. We also know that “fixing” the law is a lot more popular than getting rid of it.
But clearly it’s not the case that most voters, or most swing voters, have the kind of deep hatred for health reform that tea party activists and other core Republicans share. Those Republicans who want to keep “repeal” and “defunding” at the center of congressional debate and yet another electoral cycle are going to find, as they did in 2012, that Obamacare as a political weapon against the Democrats is, in most contexts, one big dud.
Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics. He wrote this for The Washington Post.