Poll: Most Americans Oppose Obamacare Repeal Despite Rollout Troubles

United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection poll finds public opinion on the health law holding steady with a narrow split emerging on its ultimate impact.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 28: Obamacare supporters react to the U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold President Obama's health care law, on June 28, 2012 in Washington, DC. Today the high court upheld the whole healthcare law of the Obama Administration. 
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Ronald Brownstein
Nov. 18, 2013, 4:54 p.m.

Des­pite sharp di­vi­sions over the long-term im­pact of Pres­id­ent Obama’s health-re­form law, few­er than two in five Amer­ic­ans say it should be re­pealed, vir­tu­ally un­changed since last sum­mer, the latest United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll has found.

Amid all the tu­mult over the law’s troubled im­ple­ment­a­tion, the sur­vey found that pub­lic opin­ion about it largely fol­lows fa­mil­i­ar polit­ic­al tracks and has changed re­mark­ably little since the sum­mer on the crit­ic­al ques­tion of what Con­gress should do next. On that meas­ure, sup­port for re­peal has not sig­ni­fic­antly in­creased among any ma­jor group ex­cept Re­pub­lic­ans and work­ing-class whites since the Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll last tested opin­ion on the ques­tion in Ju­ly.

While the sur­vey found a slim ma­jor­ity be­lieves the law will do more to hurt than help the na­tion’s health care sys­tem over time, it also found the stat­ute re­tains ma­jor­ity sup­port among key ele­ments of the mod­ern Demo­crat­ic co­ali­tion, in­clud­ing minor­it­ies, col­lege-edu­cated white wo­men, and young people. That means Con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats in­clined to dis­tance them­selves from the law in the hope of pla­cat­ing skep­tic­al in­de­pend­ent or Re­pub­lic­an-lean­ing voters face the risk of ali­en­at­ing some of their core sup­port­ers.

Con­versely, the over­whelm­ing op­pos­i­tion to the law with­in the GOP co­ali­tion — with nearly nine in 10 self-iden­ti­fied Re­pub­lic­ans call­ing the law “fun­da­ment­ally flawed” and nearly three-fourths of them sup­port­ing its re­peal — en­sures that Re­pub­lic­an le­gis­lat­ors will con­tin­ue to face grass­roots pres­sure to roll it back, by any means avail­able.

On the broad­est ques­tion of the law’s ul­ti­mate im­pact, the sur­vey found adults tilt­ing nar­rowly to­ward skep­ti­cism. The sur­vey asked re­spond­ents, con­sid­er­ing “everything hap­pen­ing with the im­ple­ment­a­tion of the fed­er­al health care law” to choose between two state­ments about its even­tu­al ef­fect. A slim 52 per­cent ma­jor­ity agreed with the neg­at­ive as­sess­ment: “The law is fun­da­ment­ally flawed and will do more to hurt the na­tion’s health care sys­tem than im­prove it.” An­oth­er 46 per­cent en­dorsed the more pos­it­ive sen­ti­ment: “The law is ex­per­i­en­cing tem­por­ary prob­lems and will ul­ti­mately pro­duce a bet­ter health care sys­tem for the coun­try.”

Opin­ions on this fun­da­ment­al choice di­vided the coun­try in pat­terns re­cog­niz­able from the last sev­er­al elec­tions. Most dra­mat­ic­ally, al­most ex­actly three-fifths of whites (59 per­cent) de­scribed the law as fun­da­ment­ally flawed, while just over three-fifths of minor­it­ies (62 per­cent) said it will ul­ti­mately im­prove the health care sys­tem.

Opin­ions from oth­er core ele­ments of each party’s base lined up pre­dict­ably, as well. Op­pos­i­tion spiked among the corner­stones of the GOP co­ali­tion: the share who de­scribed the law as fun­da­ment­ally flawed reached 65 per­cent of whites without a col­lege edu­ca­tion (in­clud­ing 70 per­cent of such non­col­lege-edu­cated white men); 64 per­cent among rur­al res­id­ents; 58 per­cent among whites older than 50; and 54 per­cent among re­spond­ents from the South.

CHART: Click to enlarge National Journal

By con­trast, the groups cent­ral to the Demo­crat­ic elect­or­al co­ali­tion, gen­er­ally re­mained sup­port­ive of the law, al­though by nar­row­er mar­gins. Along with the roughly three-fifths of minor­it­ies, 52 per­cent of adults young­er than 30, and 55 per­cent of col­lege-edu­cated white wo­men say the law will ul­ti­mately im­prove the health care sys­tem. Col­lege-edu­cated white men are of­ten a dif­fi­cult group for Demo­crats, but a thin 51 per­cent ma­jor­ity of them also said the law will ul­ti­mately pro­duce im­prove­ments. CHART: Click to en­large

Though in most re­spects fol­low­ing fa­mil­i­ar lines, these res­ults do con­tain some clear warn­ing signs for Demo­crats. One is that the sup­port level for the law among minor­it­ies has dipped well be­low the four-fifths of their votes Obama at­trac­ted in 2012. An­oth­er is that the law faces skep­ti­cism from in­de­pend­ents, with 55 per­cent say­ing it is fun­da­ment­ally flawed and only 42 per­cent main­tain­ing that it will even­tu­ally im­prove the health care sys­tem. Just 36 per­cent of white in­de­pend­ents ex­pect the law to gen­er­ate net be­ne­fits; 61 per­cent said they con­sider it fun­da­ment­ally flawed.

Yet the sur­vey did not find these doubts about the law trans­lat­ing in­to sur­ging de­mand to undo it. Re­pris­ing a ques­tion first asked in Ju­ly, the sur­vey re­cor­ded a close split when re­spond­ents were asked to choose among three op­tions for what Con­gress “should do now about the health care law.”

Thirty-eight per­cent of those polled said Con­gress should “re­peal the law so it is not im­ple­men­ted at all,” while 35 per­cent said law­makers should “wait and see how things go be­fore mak­ing any changes.” An­oth­er 23 per­cent said Con­gress should “provide more money to en­sure it is im­ple­men­ted ef­fect­ively” (the re­main­ing 5 per­cent had no opin­ion).

Not­with­stand­ing all the tu­mult sur­round­ing the law’s rocky im­ple­ment­a­tion, those num­bers changed little from Ju­ly, when 36 per­cent sup­por­ted re­peal, 30 per­cent wanted Con­gress to wait and see, and 27 per­cent wanted law­makers to provide more funds for im­ple­ment­a­tion.

Just like the ques­tion of the law’s ul­ti­mate im­pact, this choice di­vided the coun­try along fa­mil­i­ar lines. What’s more, the new res­ults showed strik­ing sta­bil­ity since last Ju­ly for al­most all ma­jor sub­groups.

Since last Ju­ly’s poll, sup­port for re­peal has os­cil­lated only slightly (or not at all) for self-iden­ti­fied Demo­crats (9 per­cent now, un­changed since Ju­ly) and in­de­pend­ents (40 per­cent now com­pared with 41 per­cent then); whites (48 per­cent versus 44 per­cent) and non­whites (un­changed at 16 per­cent); young adults un­der 30 (un­changed at 26 per­cent) and seni­ors (42 per­cent now versus 40 per­cent then). The sur­vey re­cor­ded a some­what big­ger shift to­ward re­peal among whites without a col­lege de­gree (up to 53 per­cent from 46 per­cent last sum­mer) and self-iden­ti­fied Re­pub­lic­ans (74 per­cent now, from 65 per­cent last sum­mer). But whites with at least a four-year col­lege de­gree re­mained es­sen­tially un­changed, with 36 per­cent now back­ing re­peal, com­pared with 39 per­cent in Ju­ly.

In­deed, like the ques­tion over the law’s even­tu­al im­pact, this meas­ure found clear signs of doubt among the key ele­ments of the mod­ern Demo­crat­ic co­ali­tion, but no in­dic­a­tion that they are rush­ing to aban­don health re­form: Re­peal drew sup­port from just one-sixth of minor­it­ies, one-fourth of mil­len­ni­als, and one-third of col­lege-edu­cated white wo­men, the groups on which Demo­crats now rely most.

The United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll, con­duc­ted by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al, sur­veyed 1,013 adults by land­line and cell phone from Nov. 14-17, 2013. It has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.6 per­cent­age points.

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