The young Americans the Obama administration so desperately needs to help make the Affordable Care Act function are the ones most likely to believe the law is endangered, suggesting that sustained House Republican efforts to repeal and undermine the law are bearing some fruit.
More than half of 18-to-29-year-olds who were surveyed in the most recent United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll say it is likely the law will be repealed in 2014, even though the chances of that actually occurring are remote.
According to the poll, 18 percent of respondents in this age group said it was "very likely" Obamacare would be repealed by Congress next year, while 33 percent said it was "somewhat likely" the law would be done away with. The survey has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
That has real-world implications. The administration has relentlessly wooed these so-called young invincibles — young, healthy Americans — to sign up to purchase health insurance through online exchanges. Those consumers, who tend to use health care services less frequently, are needed to subsidize the cost of treating older, sicker ones. Without their participation in large numbers (the target for next year is 40 percent of all new enrollees), premium rates for consumers in the exchanges could rise.
The ACA's advocates have derided the House GOP for voting to repeal the law more than 40 times, arguing that it's a waste of legislative time since the Democratic Senate won't consider such a bill. But the poll's results indicate that those attempts may have added to the widespread public confusion about the law's status. In addition, the relentlessly negative coverage of the act in the wake of the botched rollout of the federal HealthCare.gov exchange site may have contributed to the public's sense that the law is endangered.
The poll results also jibe with a survey released this week by the Harvard Institute of Politics which found that fewer than 30 percent of young Americans age 18-29 would or probably would sign up for health insurance and fewer than 40 percent of those surveyed approve of the law.
It also revealed widespread pessimism among African-Americans about the law's future. A staggering 70 percent of those surveyed (in all age groups) believe it is "somewhat likely" or "very likely" the law will be repealed next year.
The United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, surveyed 1,003 adults by landline and cell phone from Nov. 21-24.