ObamaCare Becoming More Popular ? Don’t Be So Sure

A new poll claims that the health care reform law is now supported by a majority of Americans. Don't believe it.

The Washington Post is touting a new Kaiser Foundation poll purporting to show that the health care reform lay is gaining in popularity some four months after it became law:

Opposition to the landmark health care overhaul declined over the past month, to 35 percent from 41 percent, according to the latest results of a tracking poll, reported Thursday.

Fifty percent of the public held a favorable view of the law, up slightly from 48 percent a month ago, while 14 percent expressed no opinion about the measure, according to the poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The approval level was the highest for the legislation since it was enacted in March, after a divisive year-long debate. In April, the poll found 46 percent in favor and 40 percent opposed.

Though the legislative battle is over, the political tug-of-war continues. Democrats and Republicans have been fighting to shape public opinion on the issue in hopes of influencing the fall elections.

Among Republicans, opposition to the law remained steady at 69 percent, but the intensity of that opposition ticked upward. Fifty-three percent of Republicans said they had a “very unfavorable” opinion of the law this month, up from 50 percent in June.

Independents, who can tip the balance in elections, split 48 percent to 37 percent in favor, compared with 49 percent to 41 percent a month earlier. The intensity of opinion among this group showed little change; just less than a fifth expressed a very favorable view, and just more than a quarter expressed a very unfavorable view.

The legislation was passed by Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and was signed into law by a Democratic president, and over the past month Democratic support for the legislation grew. Seventy-three percent of Democrats expressed a favorable opinion, up from 69 percent in June. Fifteen percent of Democrats expressed an unfavorable opinion, down from 19 percent in June.

A third of Democrats held a very favorable opinion of the health care overhaul.

Sounds like good news for Democrats and, as Matthew Yglesias contends, bad news for Republicans hoping to spearhead efforts to repeal the legislation in the 112th Congress, right ?

Well, let’s take a look at what a few other polls have to say.

Here’s CBS News:

Americans continue to be more likely to disapprove than approve of President Obama’s sweeping health care reforms, a new CBS News poll shows. While approval of the law is slightly higher than it was when the reforms were signed into law in March, support for the measure has dropped seven points in the past two months.

Forty-nine percent of Americans now disapprove of the health care reform measure, according to the poll, which was conducted July 9 – 12. Thirty-six percent support the law.

In a May CBS News poll, 47 percent disapproved of the new laws, while 43 percent approved.


Americans continue to see little personal benefit from the health care reform legislation. By more than two to one, Americans think it will hurt (33 percent) rather than help them (13 percent). Forty-eight percent expect the reform to have no effect on them personally.

Public Policy Polling showed 53% of registered voters disapproving of the health care law, while 40% support it.

Rasmussen Reports, meanwhile showed that a majority of likely voters favor repeal of the law:

Most voters continue to favor repeal of the national health care bill, but nearly half see repeal as unlikely. A plurality believes repeal would be good for the economy.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 58% of voters favor repeal, including 48% who Strongly Favor it. Thirty-seven percent (37%) are opposed to repeal, with 28% who are Strongly Opposed.

Support for repeal is up two points from a week ago but is consistent with findings recorded over the past several month. Weekly tracking surveys have found support for repeal has ranged from 52% to 63%.

Forty-four percent (44%) believe repeal of the health care bill would be good for the economy. Twenty-eight percent (28%) say repeal would hurt the economy. These views have not changed since earlier this month.

Finally, the latest Pew Research poll showed that 47% of adults disapprove of the law, while only 35% approve.

So, what explains the disparity between these polls and the Kaiser poll ?

For one thing two of the polls — PPP and Rasmussen — are measuring a different category of Americans than Kaiser. Kaiser surveyed “Adults,” while PPP surveyed Registered Voters and Rasmussen polled Likely Voters. So, the differences there aren’t hard to understand.

CBS and Pew, however, also polled Adults and ended up with wildly different numbers than Kaiser. I can only assume that this is attributable to the samples that were used by the three polls, and that Kaiser — an organization that has been in favor of the Administration’s health care reform efforts for quite some time — used a sample that was more heavily weighted toward groups likely to support the law. While I don’t mean this to impugn the integrity of the Kaiser poll, I do think it’s the most likely explanation for a result that is so clearly out of whack with every other poll out there.

So, is ObamaCare getting more popular ? Only in the universe inhabited by the people who responded to the Kaiser poll, apparently.

FILED UNDER: Health Care, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Kaiser — an organization that has been in favor of the Administration’s health care reform efforts for quite some time — used a sample that was more heavily weighted toward groups likely to support the law. While I don’t mean this to impugn the integrity of the Kaiser poll,”


  2. What is your question ?

  3. Brummagem Joe says:

    Doug Mataconis says:
    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 14:05
    “What is your question ?”

    When did you stop beating your wife?

  4. Well, it certainly is a suspicious poll

  5. ponce says:

    “Well, it certainly is a suspicious poll”

    If you only select other polls that back you up it is.

    Gallup agrees with Kaiser:


  6. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I guess we will just have to wait until November 3rd to find out for sure.

  7. Nat says:

    Are people against it because they understand the stakes and the details or because of a general fear of “tyranny”?

  8. esqcapades says:

    You may be onto something about the statistical significance of the Kaiser poll. If I read the internal figures correctly, it looks like only 25% identified as Republican, 35% Democrats, 31% Independents. Also, 60% identified as liberal/moderate as opposed to 36% conservative. http://www.kff.org/kaiserpolls/upload/8082-T.pdf

  9. Brummagem Joe says:

    Unlike Doug I have quite a bit of trust in the probity of Kaiser on health issues, infinitely more than I have in some of the Mickey Mouse outfits he mentions, and it’s more or less echoed by the Gallup poll linked by ponce. The Republicans are welcome to campaign on repeal but during a campaign the bits being repealed become the issue as you move from the general to the particular. So all those GOP candidates are going to be questioned about recissions, pre-existing conditions, doughnut holes and all the rest of it and we’ll see if they encounter a lot of enthusiasm for repeal. Other than here I’ve yet to meet one real person who doesn’t think that overall it’s a good thing although there’s concern about aspects of it. And on the whole most of the people I know are Republicans or Republican leaning, so go figure.

  10. Brummagem Joe says:

    “it looks like only 25% identified as Republican, 35% Democrats, 31% Independents. Also, 60% identified as liberal/moderate as opposed to 36% conservative.”

    The party id’s are a reflection of party regs. And what’s a “moderate?”

  11. esqcapades says:

    A “moderate” is often a “liberal” who is unwilling to self-identify as such.

  12. floyd says:

    “”Are people against it because they “understand the stakes and the details

    Even the people who passed the bill can’t claim to understand the stakes and the details.
    I think this explains all the confusion, besides people always fear the unknown and support the familiar, so that’s hardly an endorsement.

  13. sam says:

    Pollsterdotcom has it Oppose 45.4%/Favor 41.7%

  14. Maxwell James says:

    On long-term issues like this one, there is no reason to give special credence to just one poll, nor to compare apples to oranges as you do above. On the whole, it would be more accurate to say that Obamacare is becoming less unpopular. But it’s still a long way from popular.