ACA and Public Opinion

VII. Key Issues: Regulation & Reform >> C. Health Reform >> Affordable Care Act (ACA) >> ACA Repeal >> ACA and Public Opinion (last updated 2.12.17)


A strong proponent of the ACA, Jacob Hacker (professor of political science at Yale University) warned in 2010: “Reformers won the war in 2010, but they lost the battle for public opinion. Americans were convinced that reform was needed but not that government could do it. Reformers cannot afford to lose the second battle for public opinion.” Yet by Spring 2016, six years after the ACA’s passage:

  • The Pew Research Center national survey (April 12-19, 2016) found that 44 percent of respondents approve of the law, while 54 percent disapprove.
  • The RealClearPolitics polling average as of May 2016 found that 48.8 percent were opposed to the law, while 39.2 percent favored it, reflecting a difference of 9.6 percentage points.
  • The RealClearPolitics polling average in late 2015 saw a majority of Americans opposing the law (50.0%), outnumbering those who favor the law (42.6%) by more than 7 percentage points.
  • As of mid-2014, the RealClearPolitics polling average showed a majority of Americans favor repeal (51.0%), outnumbering opponents of repeal (43.8%) by more than 7 percentage points.
  • The Kaiser Family Foundation’s November 2015 poll found that 45 percent of Americans say they had an unfavorable opinion of the law, with just 38 percent saying they had a favorable opinion. By April 2016, the disapproval number had grown to 49 percent.
  • In May, 2016, Gallup reported that “the slight majority, 51%, favor repealing the act.” A separate May poll found that “the percentage of Americans who say Obamacare has helped them and their families has risen and, at 22%, is now at its highest since 2012. The percentage who say the law has hurt them is up 10 percentage points, now at 26%.” The poll found 49% disapproval of the ACA and 47% approval.

Heritage’s Robert Moffitt has argued (4.28.14) that “the course of the current national debate is following a familiar pattern, mirrored clearly in previous national health care debates, such as the triumphant passage and bipartisan repeal of the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988 and the quiet collapse of the Clinton Health Security Act on the Senate floor in the fall of 1994. In each case, public hostility to the health care legislation was stimulated by the mass disruptions, or threatened disruption, of existing health care coverage; the rapid and excessive cost increases that were initially ignored or unanticipated; and the metastasizing federal bureaucracy, issuing or threatening to issue costly, cumbersome, and intrusive rules and regulations to control Americans’ health care decisions.”

However, by February 2017, that long-held pattern of opposition to the ACA had begun to shift. In a variety of recent polls, with questions asked in different ways, more Americans are now saying they favor Obamacare than oppose it. According to NY Times, “the growing interest in government action fits a historical pattern. A body of political science research suggests that the public’s preference for increased government action tends to move in opposition to the ideology of the party in power.”

Public Opinion Polls

Poll Summaries

  • RealClearPolitics, Obama and Democrats’ Health Care Plan
    • The RealClearPolitics polling average as of May 2016 found that 48.8 percent were opposed to the law, while 39.2 percent favored it, reflecting a difference of 9.6 percentage points.
    • The RealClearPolitics polling average for 11.19.15 showed a majority of Americans oppose the law (50.0%), outnumbering those who favor the law (42.6%) by more than 7 percentage points.
    • Of 33 polls conducted in 2015, only 3 showed more people favoring the law than opposing it. The link includes a chart going back to late November 2009 showing how this average has changed over time.
    • Against/Opposed. The highest average percentage opposed was 57.5% (12.7.13, when the rollout of ACA Exchanges was going badly); the lowest average percentage opposed was 46.9% (7.16.12, right after the Supreme Court upheld the law in NFIB vs. Sebelius).
    • For/Favorable. The highest average percentage in favor was 44.2% (7.15.15); the lowest percentage in favor was 36.4% (12.7.13).
    • Difference. For the entire period shown on the chart, ACA opponents have outnumbered those in favor; this differential peaked at 19 percentage points (12.7.13) and has been as low as 4.7% (8.10.12).
  • RealClearPolitics, Repeal of Health Care Law: Favor/Oppose. As of mid-2014, the RealClearPolitics polling average showed a majority of Americans favor repeal (51.0%), outnumbering opponents of repeal (43.8%) by more than 7 percentage points (this average has not been calculated since then). The margin between proponents of repeal and opponents had  grown rather steadily for more than a year.
  • HuffPost Pollster. Health Care Plan: Favor/OpposeThis scatterplot shows a large number of polls conducted between 2009 and early 2011. The average of these polls shows that those in favor outnumbered those opposed until roughly July 2010 after which the situation was reversed. Those opposed outnumbered those in favor by as much as 10 percentage points during this period.

Regularly Conducted Major Polls


Items are in reverse chronological order.

  • Why So Many People Hate Obamacare. “Some 40% of Americans had an unfavorable view of the law in April 2010, while 46% had a favorable opinion, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Since then, the public’s perception has generally been more dour. In November, 45% of people had a negative view, versus 43% with a positive one… Some people hate Obamacare philosophically. They rail against the law because they don’t think the government should force people to buy health insurance and penalize them if they don’t. Also, they view Medicaid expansion and subsidies for low- and moderate-income enrollees as yet another entitlement program that uses hard-working taxpayers’ money to help lazy, undeserving people. Others say there’s nothing affordable about the Affordable Care Act. They blast the program for having high premiums and deductibles that get worse every year. They are also angry that they couldn’t keep the insurance plan or doctors that they had.” (CNN Money, 1.6.17)
  • What’s the Real Reason Americans Hate Obamacare? “Professors Lawrence Jacobs and Suzanne Mettler recently coauthored a befuddled sounding op-ed, in which they fret over the continued unpopularity of the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare. When a policy delivers benefits, they argue, it should be popular. So why do people continue to hate ObamaCare?” (Conservative Review, 6.23.16
  • Why Public Opinion on ObamaCare Should Worry Us All. “So why have overall assessments of the ACA remained so divided and largely negative? The culprit, we found, is the political environment. Prevailing attitudes of distrust in government, strong partisanship and ingrained attitudes — not features of the law itself — are perpetuating the public’s negative opinion. The ACA remains highly politicized, to say the least. Republicans in the House have voted to delay, defund or repeal the law some 60 times, and its very nickname — ObamaCare — primes us to think of the ACA through a political lens. Conservatives consider the law the very embodiment of government overreach. On the other hand, many liberals support a single-payer system and pass the ACA off as a sellout to powerful interests. When it comes to assessing the law, Americans are caught in an echo chamber in which the din of party elites and activists drowns out their positive personal experiences.” (The Hill, 6.21.16)
  • Obamacare Poll: Most Enrollees Hate Their Plans. “A new survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that a majority are dissatisfied with their plans: ‘Just over half (54 percent) now rate the value of their coverage as only fair or poor.’ Moreover, the percentage of Obamacare enrollees unhappy with their premiums and deductibles has been going up: ‘Nearly half now say they are dissatisfied with their plan’s annual deductible… and four in ten are dissatisfied with their monthly premium.’… When the ‘reform’ law was first implemented, in 2014, the percentage of enrollees who rated their coverage ‘only fair’ or ‘poor’ was 39 percent… The Kaiser survey comes on the heels of a Gallup poll showing that, despite the ongoing propaganda campaign to which the public has been subjected by the Obama administration, a majority of Americans now want the law repealed. ‘Americans are split on the idea of maintaining the ACA.… The slight majority, 51%, favor repealing the act.’ The media shamelessly ignored this finding but, as John Merline writes at Investor’s Business Daily, its significance is hard to overstate. ‘Six years after it became law, most Americans want Obamacare repealed, including a quarter of Democrats.’” Catron, David. (The Spectator, 5.23.16)
  • 9 Reasons Why Many Liberals Absolutely Hate Obamacare. “According to recent polls, Americans are against Obamacare by an average margin of about 10 percent, and even many liberals that fought so hard to get Obamacare passed are now abandoning ship.
    #1 The launch of Obamacare has been such a colossal technical failure that many liberals are now completely ashamed to be associated with it.  At this point, it is nearly impossible to sign up for a health insurance policy on  According to USA Today, the first person to successfully enroll in Obamacare in the state of Delaware had to spend seven hours on the phone and in front of the computer to accomplish that feat.
    #2 In some areas of the country, people are only able to purchase health insurance from a single company on the Obamacare health insurance exchanges.
    #3 Obamacare is causing health insurance premiums to skyrocket, and many liberals are absolutely shocked when this happens to them.  In fact, one liberal blogger was horrified to learn that Obamacare is going to nearly double his monthly health insurance premiums.
    #4 Obama promised us that if we liked our current health insurance plans that we could keep them. Unfortunately, that was a lie. All over the country, existing health insurance plans are being canceled thanks to Obamacare.
    #5 Large numbers of employers are no longer offering health insurance to their employees thanks to Obamacare.
    #6 Lots of liberals are actually losing their good paying jobs because of Obamacare. For example, thousands of Connecticut doctors were just fired by UnitedHealthCare.
    #7 Many liberals are absolutely mortified by the fact that it cost more than 93 million dollars to build
    #8 Many people that believe that they have successfully enrolled in Obamacare are not actually enrolled at all.  There are major problems in transmitting enrollment data from to the health insurance companies. This is how it was explained in the Washington Post.
    #9 Obamacare is extremely complicated.  In fact, according to, the regulations for Obamacare are now over 11 million words long.” (The Sleuth Journal, 10.19.13)
  • EBRI (November 2010). Public Opinion of New Health Care Reform Is Limited and Varies by Plan Type, Political Party.


  • The Kaiser Health Policy News Index is designed to help journalists and policymakers understand which health policy-related news stories Americans are paying attention to, and what the public understands about health policy issues covered in the news.
  • ObamaCare Watch, Public Opposition contains news of public opinion regarding PPACA.

ACA and Elections

3 Responses to ACA and Public Opinion

  1. Pingback: The Obamacare thread - Page 9 - Mazdaspeed Forums

  2. Abilor says:

    Welcome MSF!!! Leave your Obamacare comments here if you like, or return to the forum. Congrats if you actually bothered to read this rather than just beat your Tea Party drums some more. Good for you!!!

  3. Pingback: The Distraction

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