Saturday, March 18, 2017

GOP/Ryan Insurance Bill Faring Poorly in the Polls

The Huffington Post summarizes recent public-opinion polling on Republican health-insurance legislation introduced by Speaker Paul Ryan, as part of the GOP's effort to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). This article focuses entirely on public attitudes toward the Ryan plan, whereas a separate article discusses the Speaker's legislation among other topics. In a nutshell, the GOP/Ryan plan is not very popular.

Readers of this blog may recall the extensive discussion of opposition from the left to Obamacare, as some liberals seemed to be holding out for a Canadian-style single-payer plan or other system that did not rely so heavily on private insurance companies. In converse fashion, Fox News looked at opposition to the GOP/Ryan plan from the right on the grounds that it doesn't go far enough in undoing Obamacare. In particular, some of the most conservative members of the U.S. House have taken issue with the GOP/Ryan plan's retention of what are known as refundable tax credits.

How much is opposition from the right driving the overall opposition to the GOP/Ryan plan? Somewhat, but not as the predominant factor. According to the second of the two HuffPost articles linked above:

A Fox News poll published Wednesday night finds that just 34 percent of registered voters support the GOP’s health care plan, with 54 percent in opposition ― 36 percent oppose because it makes too many changes to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and 11 percent because it makes too few.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

History of Polling on Government Health Insurance

The Roper Center's Kathleen Weldon briefly reviews the history of public opinion polling on government health-insurance programs, with a focus on the passage of Medicare.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Confusion over "Obamacare" Nickname for Affordable Care Act

According to this report:

Roughly one-third of Americans don't know that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are the same thing, according to a recent poll. 

The poll, conducted by Morning Consult and published by the New York Times, found that 35% of Americans either believe that Obamacare and the ACA are different policies (17%) or didn't know if they were (18%).

This is not the first time Morning Consult has delved into the matter of "what's in a name?" In 2014, it polled on attitudes toward Medicaid expansion, with and without mentioning that is was part of the Affordable Care Act.

I suppose one can conclude that attitudes on an issue are fairly robust when support for a position doesn't vary much, depending on whether or not labels for the policy are varied. Conversely, if support does vary considerably as a function of labels, then people are likely responding more to the entity mentioned in the label (e.g., the president who supported the legislation) than to the specific policy itself.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Health-Insurance Issues Reviewed in HuffPollster Round-Up

Today's Huffington Post polling round-up reports on continuing support for the ACA, worry over many Americans' possibly losing coverage, and low support for repealing the law without a replacement ready.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Obamacare's Favorability Rises as its Champion Leaves Office and Nation Transitions to Trump

With the Republicans now holding the presidency, House, and Senate, the Affordable Care Act (ACA; aka Obamacare) will almost certainly be repealed. With the nature of a GOP-led replacement plan (if the party can ever coalesce around one) unclear, the percentage of uninsured Americans will likely rise, perhaps dramatically. Yet, even as opponents of former President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement continue blasting the law, headlines such as the following have been popping up lately.

"CNN/ORC Poll Shows Last-Minute Love for Obamacare"

"As GOP Pushes Repeal, Obamacare Has Never Been More Popular" (NBC/Wall Street Journal)

For most of the ACA's history, it has been "underwater" in the public-opinion realm. Higher percentages of Americans have opposed the law than supported it, the only question being whether by a relatively large or relatively small margin.* Now, however, as shown in the following graphic, four mid-January polls by major news organizations have each shown the ACA to be viewed (slightly) more favorably than not.

The polls' sponsors (with article links), dates in the field, question-wordings, and results are as follows:

  • CNN/ORC (Jan. 12-15) "generally favor" (49%) vs. "generally oppose" (47%).
  • NBC/WSJ (Jan. 12-15) "good idea" (45%) vs. "bad idea" (41%).
  • CBS News (Jan. 13-16) approve (48%, "strongly" plus "somewhat") vs. disapprove (47%, "strongly" plus "somewhat").
  • FOX News (Jan. 15-18) "generally favorable (50%) or unfavorable (46%)" (also asks whether respondents "strongly" or "somewhat" hold their views).
Even when the ACA, overall, was unpopular, the percentage of Americans wanting to repeal it in full and not replace it (i.e., going back to pre-2010 health care in the U.S.) was small. Now, it is really small. According to the article accompanying the FOX News poll, "The number of voters who want Obamacare completely repealed is at a new low..." (23%). And, as the now-retired Harry Reid (D-NV) pointed out in his farewell speech on the Senate floor, "support for repeal without a replacement is in the basement."

Why the late rise in the ACA's popularity?

One possibility is that, as the departing Obama himself has risen in his job-approval ratings, his popularity could be rubbing off on policies associated with him.

A second possibility involves deeper views about the role of government. In recent years, the Pew Research Center has asked, "Is it the responsibility of the federal government to make sure that all Americans have health care coverage?" (Gallup has also asked this question in the past.) When Pew queried respondents earlier this month, 60% said yes. According to Pew, "The share saying it is the government’s responsibility has increased from 51% last year and now stands at its highest point in nearly a decade."

Whether belief in government as guarantor of a health safety net is driving attitudes toward the ACA, or attitudes toward the government's role and toward the ACA are both manifestations of some deeper dynamic, is unknown. For example, national Republicans' strong desire (now with a clear opportunity) to repeal the ACA, along with the widely publicized claim that repeal (without a replacement) could throw nearly 20 million Americans off health insurance, could be leading the public to take another look at Obamacare. Regardless of the exact causal mechanisms, public acceptance of a government role in health insurance, in general, and of the ACA, in particular, appear to be on the upswing.

*Complicating the issue a bit is the phenomenon of opposition from the left, which this blog has addressed many times. The general idea is that liberals, who might be expected to favor government efforts to expand health-insurance coverage and regulation of insurers (which the ACA included), nevertheless would tell pollsters they opposed the ACA, because it did not implement a Canadian-style single-payer plan (or other systems popular on the left).

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Post-Election (2016): Full ACA Repeal Still Not Heavily Supported

In what the Huffington Post's Jonathan Cohn refers to in his recent article as the "first major post-election survey on Obamacare," the monthly Kaiser Family Foundation poll (in the field November 15-21) has found support for "repeal[ing] the entire law" at 26% of the U.S. public. Veteran readers of the Health Care Polls blog will notice that this figure is consistent with the 20-30 percent range of support for full repeal that has existed for most of the six years the Affordable Care Act has been in existence. Further, according to the KFF report:

Among those who want to see the ACA repealed (26 percent of total population), 31 percent want to see the health care law just repealed and not replaced. Two-thirds want lawmakers to repeal the health care law and replace it with a Republican-sponsored alternative, including 42 percent who want lawmakers to wait to repeal until the details of a replacement plan have been figured out and 21 percent who want them to repeal the law immediately and figure out a replacement plan later.

Taking the 26% who want the law repealed and multiplying by the 31% (.31) of pro-repeal respondents who want no replacement, we get a grand total of 8% of respondents who want to go back to the pre-ACA health-care system.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Delving Deeper Into What Advocates of Repeal Prefer Specifically

Via Charles Gaba at, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports on a follow-up question in its latest poll that asks respondents advocating repeal of the Affordable Care Act what they specifically prefer (link). In an initial question about possible modifications to the law, 32 percent of respondents chose "repeal the entire law," among options that included "expand what the law does" (30% support), "move forward with implementing the law as it is" (14%), and "scale back what the law does" (11%). The rest said none of the above, don't know, etc.

The 32 percent who favored repeal of the ACA were asked a follow-up question that focused on preferences for Congress to "replace it with a Republican-sponsored alternative" or "not replace it"   (see Figure 4 on the above-linked page). Among the 32 percent favoring repeal on the original question, 37.5 percent (i.e., 12 percent of the full sample) favored replacement with a Republican alternative and an identical 37.5 percent (12 percent of full sample) favored no replacement. The latter amounts to going back to the pre-ACA health care system. The rest said none of these, don't know, etc.