WSJ/NBC poll: Support for ObamaCare up several points since before shutdown

I’m tempted to say that it’s just one poll, but on the ObamaCare question, it’s actually not. John McCormack of the Standard pointed out to me this afternoon that Rasmussen also spotted a small rise in O-Care’s popularity from the beginning of September, when it was at 41/52, to October 4-5, when it blipped up to 45/49. There’s an obvious explanation for that that’s unrelated to the shutdown: October 1, the day the government closed, was also the day that the ObamaCare exchanges officially opened. Despite being an abject clusterfark so far, ObamaCare itself may be enjoying a bit of a honeymoon period from media coverage about the uninsured being excited to sign up. But even if that’s what’s happening, it brings me back to the question in last night’s post. The Cruz strategy for defunding (or delaying) ObamaCare was, as I understood it, to stand firm even if it meant a shutdown and then wait for public opposition to the law to build to the point where O would have no choice but to cave. The only two major polls about the health-care law that have been taken after the shutdown, though, show its unpopularity decreasing. Where’s the populist groundswell that’s supposedly going to make Obama blink? Would five polls prove that the strategy wasn’t working? Ten? We know how this theory of populist revolt could be confirmed, but how could it be falsified?

There’s no sense blogging this in depth because any poll that’s highly damaging to one party or the other is apt to be dismissed by most members as skewed. You can read NBC’s write-up for the details if you’re interested or dive right into the crosstabs. Let me make just a few quick notes. One: If you’re curious about the sample — 43D/32R/19I — RCP’s elections guru Sean Trende tells me that that’s not implausible for a poll of adults, who skew more Democratic. If you want something more refined than that, here’s the result of the generic ballot question, which was conducted exclusively among registered voters. For my money, this is the single ugliest result from the poll:


The GOP hasn’t been below 40 in four years, which was also the last time Democrats had a lead of as much as eight points. Doesn’t mean much long-term — a year after their last sub-40 poll performance, Republicans swamped Democrats in the midterms — but if you’re looking to take the public’s temperature on the shutdown, there’s a useful data point.

Two: Many more people claim to be affected by the current shutdown than did so in 1995. Whether that means anything in the voting booth, I don’t know, but it’s not a stat you want to see when your party’s taking the brunt of the discontent.


Three: The GOP is in fact taking the brunt of the discontent. That’s nothing new in light of other polls this week, but I wanted to flag this one just because of TNR’s piece the other day. Nate Cohn argued then that it was hard to say that either side was losing the shutdown fight given that Republicans weren’t even above 50 percent on the blame question. They are here, though:


The WSJ actually has Obama’s job overall increasing slightly this month from 45/50 to 47/48. That’s implausible, but it’s much closer to the RCP poll average than the instantly famous AP poll the other day that had O at 37/53. As a point of contrast, Ted Cruz’s favorable rating here went from 10/12 last month to 14/28 now; that -14 spread is the same as Harry Reid’s. And that’s not the only new poll showing Cruz underwater. Gallup had him at +6 in June but at -10 today. Some of that is, of course, the product of public anger at Congress generally, not Cruz specifically. But again, if the goal here is a groundswell of public support for the “defund ObamaCare” movement, you wouldn’t expect its leader to see his numbers dropping if that groundswell was happening.

Fourth: The most revealing numbers in the whole poll might be the breakdown on ObamaCare’s popularity.


Rarely in recent polling has strong support for the law crossed 30 percent; only after the big SCOTUS ruling on the mandate last year did the data cross the mark — until now. What’s happening, I assume, is that tea-party brinksmanship to defund the law is actually driving lukewarm liberals to support the law more strongly in the name of partisanship. Which would be fine if there was a corresponding swell in opposition, whether strong or tepid. But there isn’t. The number who think the law’s a bad idea and who strongly feel that way is actually down from where it was four months ago. Again, that may be due less to the shutdown than to the honeymoon period from the law’s rollout, but either way, the public’s not rising up. What’s the timeframe on when they should before this strategy is declared a fizzle? Exit quotation: