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Column: Locked-in opinions on Obamacare

Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg has been saying that the Affordable Care Act is not a wedge issue against Democrats because the public remains polarized roughly down the middle over it. As the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll suggests, this basic dynamic has not been changed by the rollout fiasco and, indeed, opinion has been at this place for years.

Support for the law is back to pre-rollout levels, with 46 percent in favor and 49 percent against. Numbers from the Washington Post polling team shed some light on why approval of the law has rebounded. It originally cratered because of a big drop among young people (ages 18 to 29), moderates and independents, and because the groups already most hostile to the law turned on it even more fiercely.

Among people under 30, support for the law dropped, sharply, to 36 percent in November. It has rebounded to 56 percent.

Among independents, support fell to 36 percent in November and has returned to 45 percent.

Among moderates, support dropped to 44 percent in November and has returned to 54 percent.

As for groups that already disliked the law: Among conservatives, support sank to an abysmal 17 percent in November and has returned to 33 percent. Among Republicans, support fell to 14 percent in November and has returned to 25 percent.

The temporary drop in support shouldn't distract from the fact that the public is mostly divided down the middle on the law. Marginally more disapprove than approve, but outright repeal remains a minority position. The current split is roughly where opinion was when the Post first polled on this, in August 2009 (45 percent to 50 percent). After the 2010 midterm drubbing of Democrats, the rating was 43 percent to 52 percent; in the summer of 2012, before President Barack Obama won re-election decisively, it was 47 percent to 47 percent.

Interestingly, the Post poll also found that the public is roughly split on which party has "better ideas about the right size and role of the federal government," a core question underlying the political battle over Obamacare, and polling on this has only moved marginally on it in the three years since 2010.

© 2013 Washington Post

Column: Locked-in opinions on Obamacare 12/18/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 2:43pm]
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