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.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 27: Sisters and Tea Party members of Atlanta, Georgia, Judy Burel (L) and Janis Haddon (R), protest the Obamacare in front of the U.S. Supreme Court March 27, 2012 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court continued to hear oral arguments on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
National Journal
Clara Ritger
April 28, 2014, 8:05 p.m.

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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