The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, referencing a few polls, recently wrote of Obamacare’s popularity: “Public opinion remains mixed, and the trend is toward support, not opposition.” This, however, is wishful thinking on Klein’s part. A more thorough look at the polls shows that American voters are strongly opposed to Obamacare and that this fact is not changing over time.
As Klein notes, his assertion relies on a cursory glance at the compilation of polls published at pollster.com. That compilation does indeed show opposition to Obamacare being at its lowest point in nearly a year, with only a 2.1-point gap between those who oppose Obamacare (45.3 percent) and those who support it (43.2 percent). But this doesn’t indicate that Obamacare is becoming more popular. It merely indicates that the mixture of polls has changed.
Furthermore, the mixture has plainly changed for the worse, both in terms of quality and quantity. The number of polls has dwindled substantially — from 22 in the month before Obamacare’s passage and 19 in the month afterward, to just 4 in the past month — and hasn’t included a poll of likely voters in the past two months (compared to 7 in the month before passage). This is important because Obamacare has consistently polled far better among Americans as a whole than among Americans who vote — and far better among those who are largely indifferent than among those who care deeply.
To be clear, this isn’t the fault of pollster.com, which offers a fine and useful compilation. Rather, it results from two factors: One, far fewer Obamacare polls are now being taken; two, Rasmussen, which focuses solely on likely voters and is still publishing weekly polls on Obamacare, is no longer asking the specific are-you-for-it-or-against-it question that pollster.com tallies, and thus is no longer included.
Instead, Rasmussen is asking two strongly related questions: Do you think Obamacare is bad for the country? And, do you want it to be repealed? Strikingly, even more people answer yes to the latter question than the former. Since Obamacare’s passage, Americans have said it’s bad for the country by an average margin of 14 points, while they’ve favored repeal by an average margin of 19 points. It appears that voters are even more convinced that Obamacare would be bad for them personally than for the country — and, thus, even some who think it would be good for the country favor repeal.
Across 13 weeks, Rasmussen has shown voters favoring repeal by margins ranging from 12 to 31 points. But the gap between the number who “strongly favor” repeal and those who “strongly oppose” it has remained remarkably constant. Given its consistency, that number seems the most reliable, and it doesn’t provide good news for Obamacare-supporting Democrats. The first week after passage, voters who felt strongly (in either direction) favored repeal by a 10-point margin. In week-2, they favored repeal by 11 points. In every week since, they have favored repeal by 14 to 21 points. In the past month, they have favored repeal by an average of 18 points, up from 14.5 points in the first month after passage.
But that’s hardly the end of trouble for Obamacare supporters. In the first month after passage, independents that felt strongly (either way) favored repeal by an average of 17 points. In the past month, that margin has risen to 26 points.
Interestingly, over three months, Rasmussen has also shown likely voters under age-40 to be slightly more inclined to support repeal than likely voters as a whole.
Meanwhile, of the four polls logged by pollster.com this past month, on which Klein essentially relies, three don’t screen for registered, let alone likely, voters. The only one that does, PPP (a Democratic poll), shows essentially no change from pre-passage, to post-passage, to now. It shows voters having opposed Obamacare by 4 points shortly before passage, 5 points shortly after passage, and 6 points now. Moreover, of the nearly 30 polls of either likely or registered voters listed by pollster.com in 2010, every single one has shown equal or greater opposition to Obamacare than the range indicated by PPP.
The three remaining polls (of all adults) show Americans to be essentially indifferent to Obamacare, a result that two of the three have registered in the past. But Gallup, which conducted one of these three polls (with USA Today), wrote in its release that, “highlighting the anemic nature of public support for the new healthcare legislation, the June 11-13 USA Today/Gallup poll also shows 50% of Americans in favor of Congress' repealing all or much of the law.” That includes what Gallup reports to be a 17-point margin (55 to 38 percent) in favor of repeal among independents.
This is evidence that public opinion is mixed and that Obamacare is getting more popular?