Health Care Reform Popular? Not So Fast.

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JONATHAN CHAIT JULY 29, 2010

Health Care Reform Popular? Not So Fast.

Democrats have been sending around a new Kaiser poll showing that 50% of Americans approve of the Affordable Care Act, while only 35% disapprove. The poll has gotten a lot of liberal play today, but a little caution is in order. Kaiser has always drawn more favorable numbers than other polls. The polling average still shows more Americans disapprove of the new law than approve: 

Now, it's true that disapproval isn't very high -- the pollster.com average puts the approval gap at less than four percentage points, which means the country is basically split on the health care law. The fact that polls produce such wildly divergent results shows that health acre reform has become a low-salience issue. (You don't usually get wildly divergent poll results on questions that people have well-formed views on.) The Republican base thinks it's the Death of Freedom, but public opposition was largely related to the ugly, drawn-out Congressional debate. Now that the debate is over, most Americans are tuning the issue out.

The upshot here is that the triumphal conservative narrative that Obama's health care reform is wildly unpopular and undid his presidency is almost certainly wrong. (And letting reform die on the one yard line would have been an epic political disaster.) But it's just not accurate to pick out one poll to suggest that health care reform is actually popular.

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posted in: jonathan chait

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