Today we release our latest polling on the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare. We find that a majority of New Jerseyans “supports” the ACA, while 40 percent “oppose” it. Opponents are generally more strongly opposed than supporters are strong in support. More importantly, we drill down to ask about the reason for opposition in terms of government involvement in health care. Not surprisingly, most (71 percent) opponents say they are against Obamacare because it gets the government too involved in health care. But 24 percent of opponents say they don’t like it because it does NOT go far enough in ensuring access to health care for all. This is not trivial. We tend to think all of those opposed are upset about government overreach. Instead, a significant portion has a very different view – the law did not do enough. Taken as a whole, this suggests only about one in three New Jersayans actually oppose Obamacare as a government overreach.
One other interesting note. The Monmouth Polling Institute released their polling on Obamacare yesterday and they found only a minority of New Jerseyans had a “favorable” view of Obamacare. How can that square with our finding that 55 percent support the law? This is a classic case of where question wording can make a difference in how we should interpret results. The Monmouth question is:
Given what you know about the health reform law, do you have a generally favorable or generally unfavorable opinion of it? [PROBE: Is that a very or somewhat (favorable/unfavorable) opinion?]
Our question is:
Now let’s talk about health care. From what you have seen or heard about the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, do you strongly support it, somewhat support it, somewhat oppose it, or strongly oppose it?
As we have routinely seen with questions about Gov. Christie’s job performance and favorability, asking about a “favorable or unfavorable” opinion is different from asking about “support”, just as it is different than asking about the governor’s job performance. People bring different ideas into their heads depending on how a question is asked. It is very possible that some of the people who told us they “support” the ACA would also say they have a “somewhat unfavorable” opinion of it. That is, one can think it does not do everything you would like, and feel it could have been better, and still “support” it over some unspecified alternative.
So we should not see our two polls as at odds, but instead should see them a complementary, asking about the same issues, but from different perspectives. That’s how we really get a read on public opinion.
NEW JERSEYANS SPLIT ON OBAMACARE: BUT 24 PERCENT OF OPPONENTS THINK ‘LAW DOES NOT GO FAR ENOUGH’
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – More New Jerseyans now support the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, than are opposed, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. With the first open enrollment period now ended, 26 percent strongly support the ACA, while another 29 percent somewhat support it. Detractors are more intense in their opposition: 28 percent strongly oppose the law while 12 percent are somewhat opposed.
Opposition is not monolithic; 24 percent of opponents believe the law “does not go far enough” in ensuring health care access for all while 71 percent oppose the ACA because they think it “goes too far” in involving government in health care decisions.
“Polls examining support for Obamacare tend not to ask why opponents feel that way,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “When we do, we find that a substantial share of opponents want more, not less, from a government health care program. Only about 30 percent of all New Jersey residents actually object to the law because it goes too far, suggesting a strong base for the goals of Obamacare, even if for some the current law fails to reach those goals.”
Most New Jerseyans, including half of strong Obamacare opponents, think the March 31 open enrollment deadline should have been extended to allow for more enrollments: 74 percent would have liked more time, while 22 percent say an extension was not needed.
Perhaps reflecting a combination of political opposition and a lack of awareness of its details, most respondents said they have personally seen little to no effect from the new health care law.
At the same time, the number who reported having no health insurance has declined from 14 percent to 6 percent since a January Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Still, only 3 percent of respondents said they have bought their health insurance from the online Health Care Exchange.
Results are from a statewide poll of 816 New Jersey adults with a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points, contacted by live callers on landlines and cell phones from March 31 to April 6.
Partisanship, race divide support for Affordable Care Act
Mirroring the longstanding, bitter partisan battle in Congress over the ACA, the law generates polar opposite views from Democrats and Republicans. Eighty-four percent of Democrats back Obamacare at some level, with half saying they strongly support it. Fourteen percent of Democrats oppose the law, split between somewhat and strongly opposed. Republicans, on the other hand, are almost wholly in the opposite camp. Reflecting GOP opposition to Obamacare in Congress, 79 percent of Republicans are against the law, with 63 percent strongly opposed.
About half of independents support Obamacare, but that support is lukewarm; only 16 percent are strong supporters, while 33 percent are somewhat supportive. Opponents are more intense in their distaste: 30 percent strongly oppose the law and 14 percent somewhat oppose it.
Support for Obamacare also shows a significant racial divide. Half of whites they oppose the act, with 35 percent strongly opposed. Only 19 percent strongly support the law, while 27 percent somewhat support it. In contrast, nearly all black New Jerseyans offer some support: 57 percent are strong supporters and 35 percent are somewhat supportive.
Education also makes a difference in ACA support. Respondents with graduate level work are 16 to 18 points more likely to support the law than those with a high school education or some college. They are also nine points more likely than those with a college degree to support the ACA.
Senior citizens oppose the law, 50 percent to 44 percent who support it. While those 18-34 years old are more supportive of President Obama in general, they are less passionate proponents of the law: just 19 percent give it strong support, compared to 28 percent of seniors. But 40 percent of these millennials somewhat support Obamacare, bringing their overall level of support to 59 percent.
Attitudes towards President Obama also play a large role in ACA acceptance. Eighty-three percent of the president’s supporters favor the law, but the opposite is true is among Obama’s detractors, 65 percent of whom strongly oppose Obamacare. Those favorable toward Obama are more evenly split between somewhat and strongly supporting the law.
But whether for or against the ACA, most say the enrollment deadline should have been extended past March 31: 84 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of independents, and 57 percent of Republicans feel an extension was called for. Even more than half of the law’s strongest opponents agree that individuals should have been given more time to apply.
Obamacare detractors split on why they are opposed
While the media focuses on Obamacare opponents who see the law as an example of government overreach, in New Jersey 24 percent of opponents actually want more from a health care program, including 21 percent of independents and 14 percent of Republicans.
While there is no gender gap in general support of the ACA, women opponents are more likely than men (28 percent to 21 percent) to think the law does not do enough to ensure healthcare access for all, while men (77 percent to 66 percent) are more likely to say the law goes too far. Also, better educated respondents are more likely to support Obamacare in general, but less educated opponents think the law does not do enough.
“The widespread belief that the public does not want health care reform fails to account for the many opponents who are actually unhappy because Obamacare doesn’t go far enough,” noted Redlawsk. “I suspect many supporters would also like to see more, but are willing to take what is available as a first step. Together, these two groups – opponents who want more and supporters of the current law – make up a broad-based majority of New Jersey residents.”
New Jerseyans see little effect so far
Supporters and opponents alike say they have so far personally experienced few, if any, effects from the new health care law. Only 9 percent of New Jerseyans say the Affordable Care Act has mostly helped them so far and 17 percent say the law has hurt them. Most, 71 percent, say the law has not made much of a difference in their lives.
This finding cuts across partisan lines, Redlawsk said; 76 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents say they have experienced little difference. Sixty percent of Republicans say the same, but a sizeable portion, 31 percent, also says the law has hurt them thus far.
While virtually no white residents say Obamacare has thus far made a positive difference in their lives, black residents are five times more likely to report positive effects. Even so, only a quarter of blacks have been positively affected, while the majority of both blacks and whites say they have seen little change. While the consensus is that the ACA has had little effect, lower income and urban residents are more likely to say the law has helped. While all age groups mostly say the ACA has made no difference, senior citizens are most likely to feel this way, at 80 percent.
The president’s backers, unsurprisingly, are more likely to say the ACA has helped (15 percent), while his detractors are more likely to say it has been a detriment (38 percent).
“Obamacare remains a polarizing law, even as most people say they’ve seen few effects from it so far,” said Redlawsk. “Opposition is not tied to personal experience. Rather, it is clearly an ideological litmus test for many. Even though the law carries both benefits and costs, most New Jerseyans so far seem to think Obamacare has relatively little to do with them personally, even as they stake out a position on either side.”