Americans aren’t ready to repeal Obamacare. But that doesn’t mean they think its implementation is going well.
A majority of adults don’t want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, according to the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, preferring instead to either spend more on its implementation or wait to see if changes are needed later.
But based on recent news that the White House is delaying its employer health insurance mandate, the public appears convinced that the law’s implementation is going poorly. A majority of Americans say the one-year delay is a sign the White House is ill-prepared for a law already facing mounting problems; only slightly more than one-third of adults say putting off the requirement shows the president wants to make sure implementation goes smoothly.
The results are a mixed bag for Republicans, who argue that the law’s potentially messy effects will revive it as a political force in next year’s midterm elections. At a minimum, the results show voters are skeptical that the process, which even many supporters acknowledge is fraught with risk, is going well. That doesn’t necessarily mean Affordable Care Act will be at the front of their minds in 2014, but it does reveal widespread pessimism about the White House’s handling of it.
But opposition to the outright repeal also complicates efforts for Republicans, who thus far have failed to articulate what should replace Obamacare. Last week, following the news that the employer mandate was being delayed, the House GOP voted for the 39th time to dismantle the health care law.
Given the choice to either repeal the law, wait and see how it takes effect, or add money to aid its implementation, only 36 percent of adults picked outright repeal. More than half chose to either wait and see (30 percent) or provide more money (27 percent).
And when told that an independent Congressional Budget Office study had determined that repealing Obamacare would actually increase the deficit, a narrow plurality of respondents preferred to keep the law. On the question, 48 percent said “Congress should keep the program to expand coverage because it’s important to reduce the number of Americans without health insurance,” while 42 percent said “Congress should repeal the program to expand coverage because the government can’t afford it at a time of large budget deficits.”
Among nonwhites, 60 percent said lawmakers should keep the law intact with only 32 percent backing the repeal option, highlighting how the GOP’s problems with minority voters extend into economic issues.
The findings are consistent with a March 2012 poll, which found 45 percent of respondents saying Congress should keep the program and 42 percent saying it should be done away with.
But the news takes a more negative turn for Democrats when respondents were asked about implementation.
The Obama administration announced earlier this month that it would delay for one year the requirement that companies with 50 or more full-time employees offer health insurance or face a penalty. Republicans seized on the news as evidence the law is falling apart, and they’ll find sizable support for that viewpoint among the public.
According to the survey, 51 percent of adults agreed that “The White House is not prepared to implement the law and will encounter other major problems as well.” Far fewer—38 percent—agreed with the statement “The White House is working to make sure the most important parts of the law are implemented properly,” while 11 percent said they weren’t sure or refused to answer.
Not surprisingly, pessimism about the law ran highest among the most conservative groups of voters: 62 percent of blue-collar whites thought the delay was a sign of a bigger problem, the poll found, including two-thirds of white men without a college degree. More than half of white-collar whites, both men and women, were similarly pessimistic.
Their antipathy highlights the challenge facing Democrats in red states next year, who in some cases must argue before an electorate of mostly blue collar whites why they backed the health care law in 2010. Four incumbents who voted for the measure face reelection in the mid-terms: Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.
Even 29 percent of Democrats said putting the Affordable Care Act into effect will encounter major problems (63 percent took the opposite view). Blacks were the most optimistic of all groups, with two-thirds of them saying the delay is according to plan.
The poll, conducted from July 18 to July 21, surveyed 1,000 adults by equal parts landline and cell phone. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.