Why Is Obamacare Still Unpopular?

Jonathan Cohn – acknowledging that public opinion for Obamacare remains largely negative – suggests that there are some surprising factors driving public perceptions.

“The first and more obvious factor is partisanship … Powerful as it is, the continuing partisan divide cannot tell the entire story. If it did, then the health care law would have a net positive rating, since more Americans identify or lean Democratic than Republican. When Kaiser researchers — again, at HuffPost’s request — tallied more than 8,000 interviews they’d conducted over the course of the year they found that intensity of opinion is much stronger among Republicans than Democrats and that Republicans are more likely to rate the law unfavorably than Democrats are to rate it favorably.”


“So what’s the mystery factor? The best guess is that people are holding the law responsible for all of the problems of the health care system — including those like rising deductibles, narrowing hospital networks, or even long waits at the doctor’s office that most experts believe have little or nothing to do with the law itself.”

“In retrospect, it’s not surprising that so many people assume the Affordable Care Act is to blame (or, in some cases, to thank) for the changes they are seeing. By enacting such sweeping legislation, Obama and his allies tied their law to everything that happens in health care — good and bad and in between. And by largely avoiding changes that affect most Americans, they gave most people little reason to doubt the cues they get from the news and their partisan leaders.”

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  • Calbengoshi

    Most full-time employees who earn more than the minimum wage already were covered by health insurance through their employers before enactment of the ACA. As a result, their perceptions regarding the ACA are likely to be based more on factors external to the ACA, such as political views or the perceived impact of the ACA on their medical care, such as longer waits caused by the increase in the number of persons with medical insurance seeking medical care without a concomitant increase in the number of doctors available to care for them.

  • EricFromTheHill

    I’m surprised that Cohn neglects a huge factor that the rest of the media also largely ignores: that opinion on the law should be dividing into three camps and not just two. The third group is fairly small, but crucial. They are the 10-15% who disapprove of the law because it is not liberal enough- people on the left who still feel the law is too generous to insurance companies and can’t get over the lack of a public option.

    Looking at the latest CNN/ORC poll, 43 percent favor, 37 percent oppose because the law is too liberal, and a full 15 percent oppose because it is not liberal enough. It’s high time to start treating this smaller but significant portion as its own category, because when we think of the combined 58 percent being closer together ideologically than the 55 percent who disapprove, the picture of public opinion on health care reform is drastically different.

    • Chammy

      Amen to that. Well said,but we have a piss poor media who will never address the issue the way it should be

      • Unsphexish

        “Should” – now there’s a word fraught with context. “Should” according to…? The public, who would like to know the truth about things? Or to the companies that operate the media, who are only interested in shareholder returns and the bottom line?

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