In Kaiser Family Foundation polling over the past two years, it hasn't been unusual for the share of people who say the country, as a whole, would be better off under the health care reform law President Obama signed to roughly equal those who say it will be worse off. In the latest monthly survey, released last week, for instance, 34 percent say the law will benefit the country overall, while 35 percent say it will hurt the country overall. (The rest say it won't have much effect.)
But since late 2010, the share of people who say that their own family will be worse off because of the law has almost always exceeded the percentage that say it will benefit them personally. That skepticism remains the core of the political problem facing Obama as the Supreme Court nears a verdict on the law's cornerstone, the mandate on individuals to purchase insurance. Even at the law's best moments in public opinion, when a plurality might agree it will benefit the country overall, the president has never been able to convince most Americans it will benefit them personally. For many months, it seems he has almost stopped trying.
The problem, as on almost all issues relating to government's role, is centered on whites, particularly those in the working class. According to figures provided by Kaiser, in their latest survey, 35 percent of non-white respondents believe that the law will benefit their family. That compares to just 14 percent who believe they will be worse off (the remaining 39 percent don't think it will make much difference). Whites offer nearly a mirror image: just 18 percent believe the law will leave their family better off, compared to 38 percent who believe they will be worse off as a result.