Thursday, October 03, 2013

Obamacare is actually really popular

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Republican-caused government shutdown is about a lot of things, and Obamacare is just one of them. Yes, Republicans want to defund it, or delay it, or whatever, but they also hate government -- except when it comes to law and order to protect their beloved property and make sure people are in their proper place in the social order (basically, there are the rich and the help) and when it comes to enforcing their theocratic moralizing (particularly with respect to women's health).

But Obamacare is still at the center of this mess, and Republicans want to kill it not just because they hate government but because they know, or at least the more perceptive among them do, that it could turn out to be a huge electoral boon for Democrats for years to come -- Republicans are desperately trying to disenfranchise Democratic voters, as you know, but what if voters generally come to reward Democrats for providing expanded access to health insurance while also reducing costs?

Republicans are obviously running out of time. And, really, there's no time left. Obamacare is now in place, for the most part, and it will only further cement itself in the social fabric over time. So this is very much a last-ditch effort to kill it by shutting down the government and, as we'll soon see again, holding the country, and indeed the global economy, hostage over the debt ceiling, threatening what would likely be a massive economic catastrophe just to get their way.

And one thing that seems to be driving them, and giving them the confidence to continue their fight, is Obamacare's supposed unpopularity. The polls say so, and of course their right-wing echo chamber is filled with hatred and venom for anything and everything associated with President Obama, even a market-oriented health-care system that is essentially Republican in origin. All they hear -- from each other, from their constituents, from Fox News and the rest of the conservative media establishment -- is that Obamacare is, in a word, evil.

Are they right about that? Is Obamacare really so unpopular that Republicans could actually stand to benefit from killing it by any means possible?

Well, it depends how you look at it, but, basically, no.

As Michael Hiltzik wrote at the L.A. Times the other day, Obamacare is actually pretty popular, even overwhelmingly popular when you break it down:

Among the many delusions guiding the Republican campaign against the Affordable Care Act, surely the most consistent is the idea that the public detests the law and is clamoring for repeal.

Here's the truth: The American public loves Obamacare, with as many as 88% in favor, according to one survey.

How can that be, when polls regularly show a plurality of respondents with an "unfavorable" view of Obamacare? (In a September Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll, the difference was 43% unfavorable to 39% favorable.)

The answer, of course, is that most Americans have no idea what's in the law. In the Kaiser survey, 57% said they didn't have enough information to know how it would affect them. When they're asked how they feel about specific provisions, however, they're almost always thunderously in favor. 

Here are figures from Kaiser's March 2013 poll:

Tax credits for small businesses to buy insurance: 88% in favor.

Closing the Medicare drug benefit doughnut hole: 81% in favor.

Extension of dependent coverage to offspring up to age 26: 76% in favor.

Expanding Medicaid: 71% in favor.

Ban on exclusions for preexisting conditions: 66% in favor.

Employer mandate: 57% in favor.

If you agree with those provisions, congratulations: You love Obamacare.

Sure, for the time being, polls will continue to show significant disapproval, but that disapproval is based largely on ignorance, including with respect to the individual mandate. It must be added that much of the disapproval is on the left, where I am, where Obamacare is unpopular or unfavorable only because it doesn't go far enough, because it isn't a single-payer system. This disapproval is very different than the disapproval on the right, and actually it's more appropriate to combine support for Obamacare with support for more progressive reform. This would give a more accurate view of the state of public opinion, one that is decidedly anti-Republican.

In any event, yes, there is currently significant unfavorability, and Hiltzik is right: This is largely because Republicans have been more successful at denouncing the law then Democrats have been at defending it / advocating for it. And I would add that they've been more successful because they've been shameless lying about it -- you know, the nonsense about "death panels," about huge premiums, about not being able to pick your doctor, about the government denying you treatment, and so on.

Over time, I expect Obamacare's popularity to increase significantly. Most major reforms face initial skepticism, after all. This is no different.

But the point is that the Republicans waging their bitter war are, as usual, high on delusion and low on the facts.

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  • You know, I could make a poll that says otherwise. It's not that hard...just ask certain types of people or be in a certain area and you get a group of people that think along similar lines. This healthcare is a joke, I thought it was something might work, I had hoped it would and the damn website doesn't even work. Don't give me the bullshit that there's too many people online, security questions don't work that way. I'm a web developer also and this is frankly poor quality web design. This bill is also a poor quality design too. I can expect the healthcare will work like the won't.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:56 PM  

  • You know, I'm a web developer too. But I've never worked on a website that had over 3 million users in a single day--much less its first day. I have, however, worked on websites that were located on multiple servers in different parts of the world. And I can tell you: it's hard. There are always problems, especially starting up.

    What you said about polls is shockingly ignorant. A poll with a skewed population isn't a proper poll. That, in fact, is what makes the science of polls really difficult. Anyone can just make up numbers and that's all you are saying. At least give the polling firms their due: liberal or conservative, they don't make up numbers; they are professionals.

    Frankly, I get the idea that you were just looking for something to bitch about. If you've given up on Obamacare after one day, I wonder that you even tried at all. That is assuming that you did try.

    By Blogger Frank Moraes, at 12:18 AM  

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