POLITICS
09/16/2013 01:16 pm ET Updated Sep 16, 2013

Health Care Polls Find Obamacare Unpopular On Eve Of Rollout

The Affordable Care Act is more unpopular than ever, with those who disapprove divided over whether the law should be reformed or scrapped, according to a Pew Research/USA Today poll released Monday.

Forty-two percent of Americans approved of the law, while 53 percent disapproved. That's the highest rate of disapproval that Pew has found since the law's passage in 2010. Attitudes among the uninsured were somewhat more positive, with 49 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, also released Monday, found similar opposition, with 44 percent of Americans calling the health care law a bad idea and 31 percent calling it a good idea. NBC posted a range of respondents' explanations for their opinions, from fears about "death panels" and rising costs, to happiness that preexisting conditions are covered and young adults can be covered by their parents' insurance.

HuffPost Pollster's average of all available public polls puts disapproval of Obamacare at about 53 percent.

In the Pew survey, those who disapproved of the health care law split on what lawmakers should do next: 27 percent of all respondents said lawmakers should try to make Obamacare work as well as possible, and 23 percent said they seek to make it fail.

"This strategic question is a particular point of conflict within the Republican Party," the Pew report says. Republicans as a whole were just slightly more likely to want the law to fail than to want it improved, while 64 percent of tea party Republicans wanted the law to fail.

Americans were almost evenly split on which party they trusted more to handle health care. Forty percent said they believe the Republican Party would do a better job dealing with health care, while 39 percent preferred the Democrats. It's the first time a Pew poll has found the GOP ahead on health care since at least 1990. While the size of Democrats' edge has varied widely in the past, a December 2012 poll put them 10 points ahead of Republicans on the issue.

More than three years after the Affordable Care Act was passed, 34 percent still said they didn't have a good understanding of how the law affects them. Just 51 percent knew that a health insurance exchange will be available in their state. Awareness of the exchanges was significantly higher in states that chose to run their own exchanges or partner with the federal government than in states where the exchanges will be run by the federal government.

The NBC/WSJ poll similarly found that only 30 percent said they understand the health care law "very well" or "pretty well."

"As it turns out, that 30 percent has more positive opinions about the health-care law (42 percent good idea, 45 percent bad idea), versus the 34 percent who don't understand it very well (17 percent good idea, 44 percent bad idea)," NBC's Mark Murray wrote.

The Pew/USA Today poll surveyed 1,504 adults between Sept. 4 and Sept. 8, while the NBC/WSJ poll surveyed 1,000 adults between Sept. 5 and Sept. 8. Both used live telephone interviews.

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