Obamacare Approval Numbers Unlikely To Improve


Looking at a recent polling on the Affordable Care Act, which showed the same generally negative numbers as polling has shown for three years now, The Fix argues that public opinion about the law is unlikely to improve:

Asked for their No. 1 reason for disliking the law, 42 percent cited “too much government involvement.”

This particular complaint will be almost impossible for the law to overcome. It doesn’t matter how well the government-run insurance marketplace works, if someone fundamentally opposes the whole idea of a government-run marketplace in the first place. In fact, news of 8 million signups in government-run marketplaces may only serve to remind some of the tightening nexus between government and the health insurance market. If you don’t like Obamacare, having more people sign up might make you like it less rather than more.

Other complaints about the law are also hard to combat. The mandate for individuals to buy health insurance has long been one of the law’s most unpopular features, and while certain aspects of it have been delayed (for small employers to offer plans, for instance), it’s not going anywhere. And concerns about the law’s costs, which are widespread, will be especially hard to overcome going forward. Even if the law succeeds in reducing thegrowth rate of health-care costs, it’s almost certain the actual costs of health care will continue to go up — something the law will be blamed for by the vast majority of people who have already decided that they don’t like it.

And then there’s the whole matter of whether people even processed the good news about Obamacare.


Essentially, what happened is that Americans have gotten so used to the string of bad news about Obamacare that they simply filed away the sign-ups news in the same folder. And while the White House attempted to play up the news with its “victory lap” news conference, Americans just aren’t all that keen on this kind of process story.

Perhaps in time public opinion will improve if the news about the law’s implementation and performance improves. That’s not likely to happen any time soon, though, and that doesn’t bode well for Democratic prospects in the fall.


FILED UNDER: Health Care, Public Opinion Polls, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. C. Clavin says:

    Tons of good news out about Obamacare…from enrollment and paid premium numbers…whhich Republicans like you did their best to lie about, and got cuaght…to Romneycare saving hundreds of lives, which translates into far more lives saved under Obamacare (nationwide versus state-wide)
    And you choose to focus on some meaningless polling.
    Your ODS is showing again.

  2. al-Ameda says:

    Notwithstanding the botched rollout of the government ACA exchange website, you knew that negative perception of ACA was going to be a problem when about half the nation’s political representatives refused to implement ACA, and in fact have tried unsuccessfully to repeal ACA at least 50 times.

    Gee, I wonder what would have happened if Obama had tried instead to implement a Democratic Party plan for Health Care Reform (such as Single Payer), rather than a Republican-Conservative plan?

    Obama is too moderate a person and politician for his own political good.

  3. C. Clavin says:


    Obama is too moderate a person and politician for his own political good.

    I see your point…but he won two elections by a boatload. He is a moderate Conservative if you ask me…and I’m good with that.

  4. al-Ameda says:

    @C. Clavin:

    He is a moderate Conservative if you ask me…and I’m good with that.

    Politically, so am I, however, I think – make that – I wish, he had a little more street-fighting sense to some of his reaction and response to the political opposition.

    That said, what we’ve seen is what we get, there have been no surprises. I’m not sure that he, or anyone else, expected the intensity of the political opposition to a moderate Democratic president, although Bill Clinton was a moderate and they investigated him for 6 years and impeached him because they could.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    Doug is right. It’s going to be hard to argue against the GOP charges against Obamacare given how little substance there ever was to them. Essentially meaningless talking points like, “too much government involvement.” Mostly just “Obamacare bad” repeated constantly until everyone “knows” Obamacare is bad because everyone knows Obamacare is bad. That’s a hell of a Wurlitzer the Right Wing has there. Ten years from now it’ll still be, “Obamacare bad” along with, “Keep the government’s hands off my exchange insurance”.

  6. Andre Kenji says:

    no, the problem is that there is no healthcare system in the world can survive if it´s named after a politician.

  7. stonetools says:

    So Doug ignores all the good news that shows that the ACA is actually working quite well to quote from a political pundit saying that Obamacare’s approval ratings are still low and unlikely to improve. I guess he has given up on the conservative conceit that Obamacare will be a disaster.
    Now he is saying “OK maybe Obamacare is working. But it will never be popular-at least not soon enough!”
    Certainly if the Democrats don’t get their heads out of their a$$es and match the Republicans’ massive disinformation campaign with a major campaign touting the ACA, the ACA will remain unpopular. But the Democrats do have the advantage of facts being on their side. Moreover,millions of people are being actually helped every day by the ACA. Those folks know that the ACA is helping them.
    Here is one message the Democrats can try in an attempt to turn things around:

    What if, instead, the Democrats seized the freedom discussion? For example,

    “Obamacare is more personal freedom. Now that Obamacare enables you to not have to worry about going bankrupt if you get ill, is that more freedom or less freedom?”

    “Now that Obamacare guarantees women that they cannot be overcharged just because they are female, is that more freedom or less freedom?”

    “Now that your Obamacare insurance allows you to change jobs and not worry about losing medical coverage, is that more personal freedom or less personal freedom?”

    “Now that you can see a doctor when you start becoming ill, instead of waiting until it is so serious that you have to go to an emergency room, is that more freedom or less freedom?”

    “Now that Obamacare says you can keep your child on your health plan until age 26, is that more personal freedom or less personal freedom?”

    “Now that Obamacare guarantees you cannot be denied insurance because of a pre-existing illness, is that more personal freedom or less personal freedom?”

    Obamacare guarantees the American people new freedoms. Republicans voted more than 40 times to take these freedoms away from the American people. And, they have pledged to do it again.”

    I leave it to those better suited to craft the language more intelligently. My purpose was to diagnose the general problem, and urge that Democrats fight for Obamacare by learning to use its benefits to engage the same part of the brain as Republican use to attack it. Otherwise, the Republican message controls the part of the psyche most important for making choices. [Psychologists say that 98 percent of the decisions we make are emotional, and we then quickly rationalize them.]

    A few months of coordinated, repetitive* messages linking Obamacare to increased personal freedom, and Republicans will have to use a different psychological approach. If they wish to engage on whether one has more or less freedom with Obamacare, let them.

    That’s one idea. There are others.

  8. al-Ameda says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    no, the problem is that there is no healthcare system in the world can survive if it´s named after a politician.

    No, the name of the healthcare reform is the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Republicans have used Obama’s name as a pejorative.

  9. stonetools says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Heh, Jonathon Cohn spoke to that very point today:

    See How Right-Wing Media “Covered” Obamacare’s Big News Day

    Monday was a pretty big news day for Obamacare. But you wouldn’t know it by reading conservative media.

    In the morning, Gallup reported that the percentage of adults without health insurance had dropped to 13.4 percent, at least according to its surveys. That’s the lowest rate the organization has recorded since it began asking the question in early 2008. Then, in the afternoon, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a major study, based on data from Massachusetts, suggesting that giving people health insurance makes people healthier—and that, by extension, the Affordable Care Act could end up saving more than 10,000 lives a year.
    The news got lots of attention from the mainstream media and from health-care policy analysts. But on the right? Crickets

    What was the ONLY thing right wing news sites talked about:

    The only Obamacare news that readers of these two publications have gotten in the last 24 hours is about public opinion polls, which suggest that the health care law remains unpopular as ever, and reports that Oregon officials are facing a federal investigation into whether the state’s botched website was a result of corruption rather than incompetence

    He then went ahead to chide the right wing media:

    This is not how it’s supposed to be done, even for opinion journalists. Those of us who support the law are not perfect, but I’d like to think we grappled with the bad news when it happened—whether it was website problems or plan cancellations. Last year, when a similar study about the effects of health-care reform weakened the case for making insurance more available, liberals spent lots of time writing about it.

    IOW, liberals actually try to practice journalism-the right wing media are pretty much just Republican Party hacks.
    What’s a bit worrisome is that Doug is mirroring those hacks in his coverage of the ACA. Try to rise above, Doug-please.

  10. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @stonetools: Yeah, but you’re forgetting the fiscal conservative mantra:

    Better that 10 million people die than that we let the government confiscate even one cent of our money!

  11. jd says:

    Newsflash! Uninformed people still having uninformed opinions!


    29 percent viewed Obamacare favorably
    9 percent viewed the ACA favorably
    10 percent were not sure


    22 percent viewed the ACA favorably
    6 percent viewed Obamacare favorably
    12 percent were not sure

    Independents seemed to have a better grasp of the situation. 75 percent saw both Obamacare and the ACA equally. Still, 6 percent favored Obamacare while 8 percent favored the ACA.