Affordable Care Act suffers from weak approval number, Gallup poll shows

Attitudes are thoroughly partisan

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Asking what Americans think about the Affordable Care Act is basically the same as asking what they think of President Obama. The ACA seems to have become the policy symbol of this president, plain and simple. It probably will stay that way until the Obama administration is history.

Gallup conducted a poll on the eve of the second ACA enrollment period and a week after the election. The results:  Only 37 percent approve of the program, 56 percent disapprove, anew low water mark.  This continues a pattern that began after Obama’s re-election in 2012.

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As you can see below, attitudes toward the ACA – also known as Obamacare – are thoroughly partisan.

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These results broadly mirror the exit polls from the midterms. Asked about the ACA, 25 percent said it didn’t go far enough and 21 percent said it was about right; almost all the people that answered that way voted Democratic. Another 49 percent thought the law went too far and they almost all were Republican voters.

The great irony, of course, is that the ACA has worked quickly to reduce the number of insured Americans. Gallup has done research on that too:

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But attitudes toward the ACA seem to be impervious to non-political factors. 

Why would approval of the ACA dip to a new low right now? My guess is that it is part of the aftertaste of the election. In the midterms, health care was not a prominent issue in debates or advertising after Labor Day.  But the spanking Democrats took probably dragged down perceptions of their whole agenda.

Of course, the Democrats, as a herd, decided to listen to their “strategists” and not defend their legislation, their agenda, their president and the ACA. It did not work out real well for them.

Gallup just happened to conduct another poll last week that asked, “What would you say is the most urgent health problem facing this country at the present time?”  “Affordable health care” was the top answer. “Access to health care” came in second. The Ebola virus came in third.

The threat from Ebola to an American, of course, is beyond remote.  The response is emotional. The same is true of attitudes toward the Affordable Care Act, except the emotion is partisanship, not fear.

[Also by Dick Meyer: Immigration ends the end of gridlock]

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