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Why Public Opinion of Obamacare Remains Negative

More than 8 million people got covered, but that's not changing the health law's approval ratings.

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(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Despite millions of Americans getting covered by Obamacare—which Democrats had long said would improve the health law's favorability ratings—public opinion remains negative.

Some 48 percent hold an unfavorable view of the Affordable Care Act, compared with 38 percent favorable—numbers that are virtually unchanged from previous months—according to the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, released Tuesday.

 

In the time between the March and April polls, enrollment exceeded the administration's own expectations and was largely considered a successful start for the health law's exchanges.

"People's opinions are pretty set, and so divided by political party, that we think people are still judging the law through their partisan lens," said Liz Hamel, director of the foundation's public opinion and survey research. "Eight million is a lot of people, but in terms of the share reporting on public opinion of the law, it's a small share."

Over time, public opinion has remained steady, with the exception of a bump in the number holding negative views after October's messy launch of HealthCare.gov. It'll take time for sentiments to change as consumers use their new coverage, but for Obamacare to see positive ratings, Hamel said, people will also have to like that coverage.

 

Misinformation may also be the culprit behind the health law's low approval ratings. Some 57 percent of respondents said the Obama administration fell short of its enrollment goal, despite reports that health coverage sign-ups surpassed 8 million, far and above the Congressional Budget Office's 7 million estimate (and revised 6 million projection, following the tech troubles of the first two months of open enrollment).

Kaiser's researchers conducted the survey April 15-21 among a nationally representative random sample of 1,504 adults. The foundation has been conducting the monthly public opinion survey since the law passed in 2010.

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