Obamacare isn’t popular. But it may be getting less unpopular.
On Thursday morning, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation released a new survey showing that 44 percent of the public has a favorable view of the Affordable Care Act, while 41 percent has an unfavorable view. The numbers are nearly identical to what they were in Kaiser’s most recent survey, back in late June, and statistically unchanged since March. Prior to that, the public had negative views of the president’s signature domestic policy achievement, by a modest margin that varied from survey to survey.
You can't say this latest survey or the previous ones constitute a strong endorsement of the law -- particularly since the Kaiser Foundation’s poll tends to get more positive responses about the Affordable Care Act than other surveys do. In fact, if you take an average including those other surveys, as HuffPost Pollster and sites such as RealClearPolitics do, Obamacare remains “under water.” That is, the number of people opposed to it outnumber those in favor of it.
Still, the averages also reveal a trend underway, with the public less skeptical of the law than it was in 2014. If that trend continues -- emphasis on the “if” -- that would help insulate the Affordable Care Act from political attacks and challenge the Republican presidential candidates, all of whom favor total repeal.
Mitt Romney made the same pledge in 2012. And while nobody has done a careful study of how that position affected his candidacy, it probably didn’t help and may even have hurt. The reason? Polls usually, although not always, show that even many people opposed to the law don’t actually favor getting rid of it. They'd prefer Congress find ways of improving it.
Four years after Romney's campaign, with millions of people getting coverage through the law, a repeal pledge could be even more difficult to defend. That may help explain why Hillary Clinton, front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, just released an advertisement skewering Republicans for the vows to take away the law without specifying a replacement.