Public Opinion On Health Care Reform Turning Negative Again
The perfect storm of a bad economy and a new, massive, unpopular government entitlement program may be combing to cause serious damage to Democrats in November.
More than five months after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known to it’s opponents as ObamaCare, was passed into law, the public remains as sharply divided on the law as it was when Congress voted on it.
A new poll shows that public support for health care reform dropped sharply in August — a dagger in Democrats’ hopes that their landmark legislation will help them in November’s midterm.
The Kaiser Health Tracking Poll has support for the bill dropping 7 percentage points in August — down to 43 percent — while opposition rose 10 points to 45 percent. That’s the weakest showing since May — and a far cry from the bump proponents had hoped to see as some of the law’s more consumer-friendly provisions kick in.
Democrats said throughout the year-long debate on Capitol Hill that support for the overhaul would increase once the bill passed and Americans were able to take advantage of some of its benefits. But it appears voters’ opinions of the legislation were set more firmly than anyone thought during the bruising political fight.
“Public opinion on health reform has been stuck in a fairly narrow band and is not changing dramatically,” said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “And with concerns about the economy and jobs dominating the public’s agenda, and local issues always so important in midterm elections, it is not clear that health reform will play a significant role at the polls in November.”
This is actually fairly consistent with the polling trends going back to when the law was first being debated more than a year ago:
The real problem for Democrats, though, is that it looks as though health care reform will be on voter’s minds in November:
Respondents listed health care as the third most important factor in deciding how they’ll vote this fall — behind the economy and “dissatisfaction with government.”
Forty-two percent of respondents said health care reform will play an “extremely important” role in their ballot-box decisions, on par with the 41 percent who said the same thing in June.
Jay Cost at RealClearPolitics makes a fairly persuasive case that this public dissatisfaction with the health care reform law is going to cost the Democrats in November:
The polling is pretty unequivocal on the relationship between the Democrats’ fortunes and the health care bill. It was during the health care debate that the essential building block of the Democratic majority – Independent voters – began to crumble. It was evident in the generic ballot. It was evident in the President’s job approval numbers. It was evident in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.
Reconstructing the Democrats’ meme, we can fairly say that the economy is a huge problem for the party. Of this, there can be no doubt. We can also say that the stalled recovery denied the Democrats a chance to win back the voters they lost over health care. But the process and passage of health care reform were crucial elements in the story. That’s when the party started losing the voters it needs to retain control of the government.
On the left, meanwhile, Jane Hamsher looks at the poll numbers and sees vindication of her warnings throughout 2009 that the Democrats were mistaken in passing an unpopular (and from Hamsher’s point-of-view compromised) health care reform bill:
The DCCC was very good at getting not-so-savvy poll analysts to try and discredit the SurveyUSA polling. (Those same pollsters, ironically, didn’t see anything weird in the Research 2000 polls they were quoting authoritatively at the time, which many now find suspect — though Jerome Armstrong spotted it). Somehow Democratic members of Congress engaged in magical thinking and believed Rahm’s BS about the popularity of the health care bill increasing if it passed.
Rather than focus on jobs creation in a country with climbing unemployment rates, Obama spent the better part of a year focused on passing a health care bill that looks like it will play no small part in the Democratic Party’s upcoming electoral woes.
Well, we warned you.
And, at least at the moment, those warnings are looking quite prophetic.