Monday, December 27, 2010

(un)Popularity of Repealing the PPACA

A somewhat galling narrative is being repeated around Washington pundit circles these days: Americans want to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The animosity towards the bill is bringing down Obama's popularity and strengthening the Republicans hand. Not only is this story not supported by polling evidence, it is directly contradicted by all polling on the matter.

An typical example surfaces in Michael Barone's piece "Even after shellacking, 2012 looks OK for Obama:"
Working against Obama still will be substantive issues. Most Americans want to repeal Obamacare; he wants to keep it. Most voters rejected his vast expansion of the size and scope of government; he still thinks it's a good idea.
This is a pretty big claim: most Americans want to repeal the Affordable Care Act? It's also easily testable, and one which media organizations have been checking since the bill was signed into law.

A simple aggregate of polls shows that a plurality though not a majority of Americans (48%) disapprove of the Democratic health care plan, with different question wordings being used to get that result. Of course, disapproval and repeal are not interchangeable positions. While we can assume the 42% of Americans who favor the Affordable Care Act do not support repeal, it is not valid to assume that all respondents who disapprove of the law favor going back to the pre-Obama health care law. The disapproval group probably includes some who want to strengthen consumer protections or offer a single payer system. However, since only 48% of Americans disapprove of the law, it makes Barone's claim highly doubtful. Doubtful enough that any editor should have thrown out the sentence in a simple fact check.

Luckily, there are polling firms which explicitly ask whether people support repeal. The ABC News/WaPo poll released on December 13 shows that repealing the affordable care act is an unpopular position garnering only 31% support. That number is actually generous in that it includes all respondents who said they either wanted to repeal a handful of provisions or all of the Affordable Care Act. The Barone position (Americans are out to stamp out the Affordable Care Act wholesale) is supported by a whopping 15% of adult Americans. That's about the same number that identify as members of the tea party.

The evidence supports a direct refutation of Barone's claim. 85% of Americans support keeping at least some aspects of the Affordable Care Act in the law. Even of the people who disapprove of the Affordable Care Act, two thirds chose an option other than total repeal. That doesn't sound like a substantive issue that will hang from the President's neck in 2012.

But why let facts, numbers, and reality get in the way of an analysis article?

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