Gallup: Obamacare popularity in free fall, reaches lowest rating in poll's history

Just after President Barack Obama was reelected in 2012, the health care reform law which bears his name as its sobriquet was, according to Gallup, at least somewhat popular.

Gallup’s findings in November, 2012, bucked a trend wherein the majority of pollsters determined that the law was still unpopular. The Real Clear Politics average of polls in this month found the Affordable Care Act was underwater by 5.4 points, but Gallup’s results showed the ACA rebounding to 3 points above water with 48 percent approving of the law and only 45 percent disapproving.

That popularity boost did not last long. When Obamacare began being implemented in the fall of 2013 and the federal health insurance exchange website debuted with a thud, the ACA’s approval rating collapsed to 40 percent with 55 percent disapproving. Once the kinks were worked out of the website and the first open enrollment period completed, however, the ACA rebounded slightly.

In the summer of 2014, the law was just 8 points underwater. By October, amid a heated election season in which Republican candidates mobilized their base voters with anti-Obamacare messaging, the ACA had sunk to 13 points underwater. Today, Gallup revealed, Obamacare has reached an all-time low of 19 points underwater. Only 37 percent expressed some approval for the ACA while 56 percent disapprove of what most agree will be Barack Obama’s legacy achievement in office.


In October, 39 percent of independents said they approved of the ACA. Today, only 33 percent of that key group said the same. Similarly, approval for the law has sunk at a faster rate among non-whites than among whites. Today, 56 percent of minority respondents said they approve of the ACA whereas 62 percent said the same in October.

Gallup’s finding comports with the majority of polls that have taken the nation’s temperature on the health care reform law since October. Of the seven pollsters who asked respondents for their opinion on the ACA, only Pew Research Center found the margin of disapproval over approval in the single digits. The majority determined that the Affordable Care Act remains an albatross around Democratic necks.

The conclusions Gallup’s Justin McCarthy draws from this survey are enough to leave the average ACA supporter despondent:

Americans have never been overly positive toward the ACA, at best showing a roughly equal division between approval and disapproval early on in the law’s implementation. The percentage of Americans who approve of the law represents a new numerical low, which could indicate a loss of faith in the law amid the aftermath of the 2014 midterms. Although the ACA, also called Obamacare, was not as dominant an issue in this year’s congressional elections as it was in 2010, the issue was part of Republicans’ campaign efforts to oppose the president’s agenda overall. In doing that, many of the party’s candidates were successful.

Though the law’s implementation suffered setbacks last fall, government officials have greater optimism for the health insurance website’s usability this time around. Importantly, though, approval of the law has remained low throughout the year even as it has had obvious success in reducing the uninsured rate. And with approval holding in a fairly narrow range since last fall, it may be that Americans have fairly well made up their minds about the law, and even a highly successful second open enrollment period may not do much to boost their approval.

The record number of respondents souring on the ACA must not be reading NBC News. To take a glance at today’s First Read report on Obamacare is to learn that Jonathan Gruber may have had a point about those stupid American voters not knowing what’s best for them:

The uninsured rate, per Gallup, has dropped from 18.0% last year to 13.4% now. Many premiums for 2015 are lower than expected. Medicare’s finances have improved due in part to the health-care law. And as for the website, it’s working much better than it did a year ago.

NBC’s reporters observe that the administration believes it has a communications problem when it comes to the ACA, and that the law’s popularity would spike if only the White House could frame it in the right way. For their part, Republicans should be thrilled that this is the administration’s conclusion. Surely, the only strategy the White House could adopt with regards to the ACA that would disappoint the GOP is if they stopped talking about it at all.

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Jazz Shaw 5:01 PM on March 22, 2023