Poll: Americans Still Split on Affordable Care Act

Americans remain almost evenly split about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to the latest poll released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, although many provisions are popular aside from the individual mandate.
by | March 14, 2012

Americans remain almost evenly split about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to the latest poll released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, although many provisions are popular aside from the individual mandate.

The Kaiser poll found that 41 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the federal health care reform law, 40 percent have an unfavorable view and 19 percent don’t know or refused to answer. With some fluctuations, those numbers have remained fairly consistent since the ACA passed in March 2010. The poll was conducted from Feb. 29 to March 5 among a nationally representative sample of 1,208 adults. The margin of error is plus-or-minus 3 percent.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats and Republicans remained fairly consistent in their respective favorable and unfavorable views of the ACA. Independents are split, 42 percent to 40 percent, in favor of the law.

Specific provisions of the law enjoy widespread popularity. Tax credits to small businesses, the requirement for easy-to-understand plan summaries, the ability to appeal health plan decisions and the prohibition on cost-sharing for preventive services have the support of 69 percent to 80 percent of Americans. But the public’s awareness that those elements are part of the law ranges from 37 percent to 51 percent, according to the poll.

In contrast, only 32 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the individual mandate, and 64 percent are aware of its inclusion in the ACA, according to Kaiser.

The poll also reveals that the public feels uninformed and unsure about the impact of the law on their personal lives. According to Kaiser, 59 percent said they don’t have enough information to understand the ACA’s impact on them; 67 percent said the law has not personally affected them yet, while 21 percent said it has negatively affected them, and 14 percent said it has positively affected them. Regarding the total effect of the law, 34 percent believed it won’t make a difference; 33 percent said they expected to be worse off, and 26 percent said they expected to be better off.

The numbers illustrate the public perceptions of the ACA before the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments at the end of March on the constitutionality of the individual mandate and Medicaid expansion (and, by extension, the law itself).

The public seems slightly disinterested in the legal proceedings, brought on by a 26-state lawsuit led by Florida that was filed almost as soon as the law was passed. Only 9 percent said they were following the court case “very closely”; another 28 percent said they were following it “fairly closely”. Forty-two percent believe the ACA has already been overturned by the Supreme Court or weren’t sure, according to Kaiser.

With oral arguments set for March 26-28, 51 percent of Americans said the court should find the individual mandate unconstitutional, and 53 percent expected that the court will. A plurality (38 percent) believed either a justice’s personal ideology or national politics would play the most important role in their decision. Just 19 percent said the most important factor would be the justices’ analysis and interpretation of the law, according to Kaiser.

The full findings of the Kaiser poll can be found in the document below.

 

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