Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

December 27, 2010

37% IS NOT A MAJORITY.... CNN released a new national poll (pdf) this morning, gauging public attitudes on the Affordable Care Act. Not surprisingly, the health care law still isn't popular, but the details matter.

The poll asked respondents a fairly straightforward question: "As you may know, a bill that makes major changes to the country's health care system became law earlier this year. Based on what you have read or heard about that legislation, do you generally favor or generally oppose it?"

Though support has gone up a bit over the course of the year, while opposition has declined, we're still left with 43% favoring the new law, as compared to 54% who disapprove. Steady improvements in the numbers don't change the fact that opponents still outnumber supporters.

But to its credit, CNN asked the much-needed follow-up question:

"Do you oppose that legislation because you think its approach toward health care is too liberal, or because you think it is not liberal enough?"

Favor: 43%
Oppose, too liberal: 37%
Oppose, not liberal enough 13%

Looking back over the results since March, support has gone up four points, while those thinking the law is too liberal has dropped six points, but that's really only a small part of the story here.

The more important element is that the conventional wisdom, driven in large part by Republican talking points, is deeply flawed. We've been told repeatedly that Americans just don't like the Affordable Care Act because they consider it excessive government overreach and some kind of liberal boondoggle.

But for months we've seen results like those from the CNN poll -- opponents of the health care law don't all agree with the conservative Republican line. On the contrary, only 37% of the country actually endorses the right's line and sees the Affordable Care Act as being "too liberal."

So, when you see the top-line results and see that 54% oppose the law, this is not to say that 54% have bought into the right-wing demagoguery and think Republican criticisms have merit. On the contrary, one could look at the same results and say that a 56% majority either support the law or want it to be even more ambitious in a liberal direction.

When Republicans try to gut the Affordable Care Act next year, insisting that the country is with them, it's worth remembering a pesky detail: they're wrong.

Postscript: The same CNN poll, by the way, shows the public souring quickly on the individual mandate. Whereas a year ago half the country was fine with the idea, support has dropped to just 38%, which isn't entirely surprising given that the right has targeted much of its attacks at this one provision. But the same poll shows that a 64% majority supports the law protecting consumers with pre-existing conditions from discrimination.

A big chunk of that 64% oppose the mandate, but they almost certainly don't understand how the two policies are related.

Steve Benen 1:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (11)

Bookmark and Share

I oppose the individual mandate, but I understand the connection with with protecting individuals from discrimination. I oppose the individual mandate because I believe that forcing consumers into the maws of whatever policies the insurance companies choose to offer is a TERRIBLE way of implementing this.

Accordingly, I favor single payer. That would solve all these problems at a stroke.

And I don't believe it's politically infeasible. Medicare is single payer, and everybody favors that.

Posted by: Simon S. on December 27, 2010 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

There's one thing about the Canadian health care "single payer" system that many people in the United States do not seem to understand.
In reality, all of Canada has the "individual mandate" -- we all must support our health care system through our tax dollars and nobody has the choice not to do this. In effect, my family pays well over a thousand dollars a month for our health care system, through the income taxes that my husband and I pay.

Posted by: Cathie from Canada on December 27, 2010 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Be quiet Steve. Congressional Republicans are top line people. We don't want them to realize they are on the wrong side of the ACA issue. Let them find out after they start the repeal process that people don't really oppose ACA because it is too liberal.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 27, 2010 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

this liberal opposition to the ACA as insufficient has been in existence every time the pollsters bother to probe for the question, and yet, of course, media figures don't want to know, since it complicates the story.

it wouldn't be surprising, btw, to find a similar issue with respect to the invdividual mandate, as simon s at 1:28 demonstrates.

Posted by: howard on December 27, 2010 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK


As with others here, I understand the connection between the individual mandate and universal coverage. But just because I understand it doesn't at all mean that I think it is the best way to accomplish universal coverage. Or that I even think the individual mandate is at all Constitutional (I don't).

I refuse to believe that the government can force me to hand over my money directly to big insurance so that their senior executives can buy another gold plated toilet for their ninth vacation home in the Swiss Alps.

Single payer. Single payer. Single payer.

Posted by: Bucky on December 27, 2010 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Bucky: "I refuse to believe that the government can force me to hand over my money directly to big insurance"

The mandate doesn't do that. People can go without insurance and pay an extra tax which will go to the government, not big insurance.

As for the constitutionality of the mandate, it seems clear to me that since government gives tax deductions and credits for certain activities and purchases all the time--see the home mortgage interest deduction--it would be perfectly constitutional to raise everyone's taxes by the amount of the penalty for not having insurance and then provide a tax credit for those who do have insurance. Since that produces the same result as a tax penalty for not having insurance, I don't see why that would not be constitutional as well, unless we're going to allow pure formalism to trump substance.

Posted by: dsimon on December 27, 2010 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Throughout the period when the ACA was under consideration, a significant share of those who disapproved did so because it did not go far enough. And throughout that period, Republicans claimed that a majority of the American people opposed the ACA even though only a minority agreed with the Republican position. The Republicans built support for themselves in this thoroughly dishonest way--and the Democrats never called them on it, thus increasing their vulnerability in the election. They (and we) are paying the price now.

Posted by: JM on December 27, 2010 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Bucky: the IM means you pay a tax that funds a subsidy or you get that tax credited for buying insurance. There is no power there beyond that of any tax credit.

As for the mandate itself, you either have it or you have nothing. It is an industry payoff, without which it would not be possible to get political support for taking away their entire business model and forcing them to pay everyone's medical bills regardless of the nature and timing of their illness. Single payer was not an option in 2010, so the alternative was the status quo.

Moreover, the system just passed is just an inefficient version of what single payer would do that was actually feasible to get enacted.

Posted by: molosky on December 27, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Let's not call it a "mandate." Let's call it "responsibility" or "deadbeat pay-up." Those that can afford insurance and haven't been paying, are getting free service and benefits. Now they have to pay.

Posted by: Noogs on December 27, 2010 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

The increasing opposition to the mandate is a direct result of there being no brakes on the insurance industry to raise rates. Since they get to take a percentage as profit, the insurance industry has zero incentive to reduce cost of care. In fact, they have every incentive to see those costs rise because it increases their profit.

The whole thing stinks w/o a drastic change in the cost structure of providing medical care.

Posted by: karen marie on December 27, 2010 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

Not surprisingly, CNN's coverage of the poll on its evening news highlighted the 53% "opposed" but didn't highlight the 56% that either favored the legislation or wanted more.

Posted by: Tony on December 27, 2010 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly