Health care reform is actually quite popular

There is a USA Today/Gallup pollwhich asks whether the passage of the health care bill was a good or bad thing. 49% say good and 40% say bad. It’s clear that now that this thing has actually been passed it’s quite popular. I expect that to continue and even increase in the next few months as the early benefits kick in. If the economy continues to improve that will also help Democrats generically including the popularity of health care.

This is not surprising if you have been following the polls closely. For example check out the CNN poll taken in the last few days of the health care push. On the surface it looks bad with 39% supporting and 59% opposing but if you look at the next question, only 43% oppose it for being too liberal and 13% oppose it for being not liberal enough. It was always likely that once health care was passed the latter group would end up supporting it and certainly they aren’t going to vote Republican because of health care.

The main strategy of the Republicans going into the election appears to be rage and froth against health care and I think they are in for a rude shock. They may still pick up some seats in conservative House districts but I suspect they will end with far smaller gains than they hope for. has an interesting post discussing this poll result.

I don’t think it really pays too much to pay too much attention to either a single poll or to polls taken during the heat of the negative press. The issues are going to be: how it affects polls - especially in swing districts, not overall - at midterms; how it is able to be spun when Obama is up for re-election; and how the way it played out affects his tactics and success for the rest of his agenda this term.

  1. I have little doubt that this will hurt in swing districts, just not as much as some think. It has helped galvanize the Right and they will come out more, whereas the Left may end up begudgingly recognizing it is a positive thing overall but not be excited by that positivity. And independents may end up being a wash at that point.

  2. I think it will be seen as the great thing it really is by Obama’s re-election time and help him tremendously, but that is still to be seen. How long did it take until Reagan’s statements about Medicare during its debate - that unless it was blocked that "one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” rang false and Medicare was seen as a Good Thing?

  3. I think Obama continues the tactic of trying to reach out and let’s the GOP keep slapping his hand away if they want. He really doesn’t have much of a choice. A “majority” with Democrats doesn’t mean much, as this process shows they are a heterogenous crowd. Much easier to get things done if you could get some of the GOP on board and he will still aim to do that even if he loses some of his own party’s members’ support along the way. (Knowing that he may need to press hard on his own at the final push to squeak things through.)

This article shows that even prior to the vote a good majority of people liked health care reform IF they actually had a clue what was in it.

Health care reform was the one big issue for which I voted for Obama. Now that it has passed, I can say that, for me, the Obama Administration is a success.

True. Before this thing went through and nobody really knew what was in it everyone was getting heated mis-information. Myths and lies spouted from extremists.
Now that it’s passed and there are an abundance of articles out there spelling out what’s in it and what it means for them I think more and more people will like what they see.

There is a danger though that people hear what’s in the bill, hear that the bill has passed, and think the law is in place. If they don’t know that a lot of the provisions don’t kick in until 2011 or 2014, they might, for instance, see their premiums go up or find their plan doesn’t cover a specific condition and think, “what? This must be the work of Obamacare!”.

At the very least I suspect a lot of people will be surprised at how little will change. That’s good to the extent that people will realize the US isn’t suddenly a socialist dictatorship that euthanizes grandparents, but it could be bad to the extent that people think, “I heard about how great and important this bill is, but nothing much seems to have changed”.

Like Nate Silver says, we should obviously wait for more polls to see if this is just a temporary bounce. However I think there are a number of reasons for believing that health care will be quite popular and a net plus for the Democrats as the election comes closer.

  1. As mentioned a lot of the individual policies poll pretty well. Once voters have a better idea about the real legisliation it will become more popular.
    2)Some of the declining popularity has been about the process which was interminable and inevitably messy. Now that it is more or less over that will dissipate.
  2. Contrary to some analysis a fair bit of the bill kicks in this year before the election. Kevin Drum has a postwith the list of the stuff which will benefit voters before the election. As they see concrete benefits coming from the bill, its popularity will improve.
    Finally I think health care will be more important to the election than many people think. Right now the conventional wisdom is that the economy is what matters. And certainly that could prove to be true it moves sharply in either direction. Obviously a strong recovery will help Democrats and a further decline could doom their majorities. However there is an intermediate outcome which would neither help nor hurt Democrats much and right it is looking pretty likely: a decent enough recovery without truly robust job growth.
    In that case health care could become the biggest issue in the election. What this means is that every Democrat who voted for it needs to take a look at that list and figure out ways to explain to their constituents why the bill is good for them. This is exactly what I expect them and Obama to do and ultimately my hunch is it will work.

I think this is consistent with what the polls have been showing lately. People like the changes that are involved with the new law, but Republicans have been much more successful at publicizing their … I don’t know if I want to call it a message … their version of what the bill is about than Obama and his supporters have, so people have a sense the bill is evil even though they like some or most of its components. And everyone was frustrated by the amount of time the debate took. So I can see its popularity going up from here, particularly if Obama can start communicating successfully.

Moms. Moms who worry and fret about their young adult children not having health insurance, and now get to keep thier children on their insurance until those kids are 26. Not to say Dads won’t feel similarly, but they don’t feel it as intensely as Moms do. The Pubbie who campaigns to repeal that is going to have trouble with Moms.

This bill is sausage and everyone wanted to see the sausage made. I support HCR but I was getting nervous about the process and when I found out that Nebreaska and Louisiana were getting sweetheart deals, it made the lack of transparency even more ominous. now that the bill is out and the reconciliation amendment strips most of the offensive portions of the bill, I am feeling pretty good about it. I hope it improves over time.

The 538 piece is correct in the sense that the CNN poll numbers largely reflect a bounce and emotional response to it getting passed. This is a pretty common response. For example, I’d guess that Obama’s approval numbers were never higher than shortly after he got elected; I remember us talking in January saying that he had lower approval numbers after one year than any other president in the history of Gallup polling.

Lantern, you mention that a lot of the individual pieces of the bill poll as popular. But the overall bill was polling as unpopular right up to this bounce. There was an interesting piece in the WaPo by Krauthammer as to why that could happen.

I think the biggest affect on its popularity will be on how the details play out. Will they actually take the $500b out of Medicare and $200b out of DocFix to pay for this, as they said the would (so it would ‘reduce’ the deficit)? If so, will taking all that money out of the healthcare delivery system have an adverse affect on Americans’ healthcare? (especially seniors’ healthcare… those geezers get out and vote). Will the 118 new boards and commissions created by this bill actually streamline things? Or will this new bureaucracy make things worse? We’ll see.