Voters Don’t Like Obamacare, And Probably Never Will

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Two months before midterm elections, Obamacare has the disapproval of a majority of registered voters — just above its all-time low level of support, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s latest tracking poll. 

Four years after its passage, the health-care law’s stagnant unpopularity is unlikely to change anytime soon. Republicans and independents continue to staunchly oppose Obamacare, heavily outweighing supportive Democrats in overall numbers and in intensity. Forty-nine percent of registered voters now view Obamacare unfavorably, and even worse, 51 percent of likely voters disapprove of it, compared to just 35 percent that support the health-care law.

Pure independents are twice as likely to dislike candidates that voted for Obamacare than they are to favor them, according to Kaiser’s September tracking poll. Across all independent voters, 46 percent say they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate that voted to repeal Obamacare, not simply fix it.

Unlike the 2010 midterm elections, Obamacare isn’t the most motivating factor for voters this time. Kaiser found that the economy and jobs are the most commonly cited motivating factor for registered voters, while health care was number two. So despite the public’s longstanding opposition, Obamacare probably won’t be the deciding factor in many races this year. Especially with another two years with Obamacare’s namesake in the White House, voters don’t expect significant change to (or repeal of) the status quo, according to political expert Charlie Cook.

It’s not that the furor over Obamacare has diminished, Cook said at a KFF panel Tuesday, the conversation has “just sort of evolved.” Now that Obamacare’s been law for years, they’re more resigned to its existence.

“They don’t like it, but they don’t think it’s going to be relitigated,” Cook concluded, in line with Kaiser’s poll results — 63 percent of voters now favor making fixes to the law, rather than repealing it entirely.

And that’s playing out in campaigns nationally. Republicans are lumping in Obamacare and the Obama administration’s constant unilateral changes to the law with other examples of executive overreach, particularly in Iowa, according to Des Moines Register columnist Kathie Obradovich.

Meanwhile, Democrats have largely given up on promoting personal stories about how Obamacare has benefited individuals and are still trying to avoid talking about the health-care law. “They just don’t want to talk about it,” Obradovich said Tuesday.

Even when they do try to play up the individual parts of Obamacare the public supports, such as pre-existing conditions regulations, Democrats can’t escape the constant antipathy to Obamacare. Arkansas Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor made the first pro-Obamacare ad in a competitive race just last month — without even mentioning the Affordable Care Act’s name. Pryor cited “a law” he helped pass instead. (RELATED: Finally, A Democrat Runs A Pro-Obamacare Ad — But Won’t Even Say The Law’s Name)

That might be the best option at this point. Public support for Obamacare was at its highest when it passed in 2010, according to Kaiser’s monthly tracking polls, but it’s languished below 40 percent approval for a full two years.

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Sarah Hurtubise