A Kaiser Health Tracking Survey released on Tuesday finds that for the first time since September 2012, more Americans say they have a favorable opinion of the 2010 health care law than the number who say they have an unfavorable opinion of that law. The 2010 health care law, often referred to as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or as “Obamacare”, was signed by the President after passing both houses of Congress in 2010. Since then, Congressional Republicans have made repeated unsuccessful attempts to repeal the law. The American public has been divided on the law.
The Kaiser poll finds that the public is still split on the law with 43 percent holding a favorable view to 42 percent expressing an unfavorable opinion towards the law. However, this marks a 17 percentage point favorable swing from July 2014, when just 37 percent of Americans viewed the law favorably, compared to 53 percent who viewed it negatively.
Only 29 percent of Americans now favor outright repeal of the ACA. Support for repealing the law is very low with Democrats (11 percent) and Independents (30 percent) but remains a priority for a majority of Republicans (58 percent). The partisan divide on health care is as wide as ever, but Independents are tending to align with Democrats in opposing Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare.
Although Republicans still oppose Obamacare, when asked questions about specific health care protections, they, like most Americans, seem to favor policies that are consistent with some of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For example, 2/3rds of Republicans agree that it is important to make sure that high-cost drugs for chronic conditions, such as HIV, hepatitis, mental illness and cancer, are affordable to those who need them. Over half of Republicans want government action to lower prescription drug prices.
While Republican politicians continue to attack Obamacare, their dogmatic position is losing ground with the American people. Texas Senator Ted Cruz is campaigning for President arguing that he will “repeal every word of Obamacare”. While this theme may still serve him well in the hyper-partisan atmosphere of the GOP caucuses and primaries, it’s a non-starter with Independents and Democrats. In a general election race, Cruz’s ”repeal every word of Obamacare” theme would potentially alienate the 70 percent of the electorate that opposes repealing the health care law.
American voters are susceptible to propaganda, and the constant drumbeat of Obama critics attacking the health care law has kept the public divided on the ACA. However, Americans are also pragmatic people who value policies that work. Despite repeated Republican efforts to dismantle Obamacare, public opinion is shifting towards stronger support for the law. Republican politicians will probably continue to attack Obamacare, but increasingly those attacks will put them at odds with the hearts and minds of the American people. The American people aren’t interested in repealing Obamacare. If Republicans ignore that fact, their obsession with overturning Obamacare could hurt them politically in 2016, as well it should.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.