Don’t Look Back in Anger: Strong Opinions Prevail on ACA’s Fifth Anniversary

Thanks, Obama.

On the Affordable Care Act’s fifth anniversary, Morning Consult polling shows that mentioning Obamacare is a good way to swing previously neutral opinions into the negative, or further energize negative perceptions of American healthcare’s biggest overhaul in more than a half-century.

When asked whether they think the quality of healthcare has improved, 31 percent said it was better, and 31 percent said it was worse.

When asked the same question in the context of Obamacare, only 25 percent said healthcare has improved, while 35 said it has worsened – a difference of 10 percentage points where before there was none.

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The dead weight of Obamacare doesn’t come as a surprise – polling has shown that people like certain aspects of the ACA, but don’t like it overall for years now. But of all the law’s unpopular aspects, its changes to health insurance consistently draw the most ire.

Access to affordable health insurance has been the ACA’s biggest reform, and strong arguments for and against have defined the debate between officials, politicians and pundits. Detractors argued that the ACA could spike insurance premiums, while supporters said it would make the marketplace more competitive, driving down prices.

When asked whether health insurance has become more or less affordable in the past five years, an appreciable plurality – 38 percent – said health insurance had become less affordable. Injecting Obamacare into the question only amplified this response, with 24 percent of respondents claiming it had become more affordable, 24 percent saying it was as affordable as five years ago, and 43 percent saying it was less affordable.

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When asked how the quality of healthcare had changed in the past five years, most (38 percent) said it hadn’t; when asked how quality had changed since the passage of Obamacare, most (again, 38 percent) said it had worsened.

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Other issues related to healthcare provision (access to doctors and hospitals) were less volatile, with majorities in both cases saying not much had changed. It’s not much of a birthday cake, but for the ACA, which continues to define the raging healthcare debate, it will have to do.

The poll surveyed 1,004 registered voters on March 22, 2015, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Morning Consult