Obama Healthcare Law Polling Numbers Improving

Republicans retain the momentum going into the fall midterm elections. But they have to be eyeing these polling trends with some trepidation.

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The Associated Press brings a bit of good news for Democrats, especially those standing for office in November: According to a new poll, the Obama healthcare law has reached its highest level of popularity. The poll, from AP-GfK, has 45 percent of adults approving of the bill and 42 percent disapproving. That's a statistical tie since the margin of error is plus or minus 4.3 percentage points, but the important data here is the trend line.

Last month the law only got 39 percent approval, and 46 percent disapproval. According to the AP:

The poll found support increased since May among men (from 36 percent to 46 percent), people in their prime working years (from 35 percent to 49 percent among 30-49 year-olds) and Republicans (from 8 percent to 17 percent.) The uptick among Republicans comes even as party leaders are calling for the law's repeal.

A doubling of support among Republicans. Well that's something.

Like I said, the trend is the important thing here. And that trend roughly reflects pollster.com's average of polls on the plan. While pollster.com still has the plan being more unpopular than popular, it shows the gap closing steadily.

This could become a problem for Republicans. The GOP seems increasingly beholden to its fringe, Tea Party base, which is foursquare behind the idea of repealing the law. As I wrote in the wake of the law's passage:

Right now broad public opinion and the GOP base's opinion, most notably the Tea Party activists, are broadly aligned--neither group much likes the bill. But what happens for the GOP if the trends diverge? ... There's no question that Tea Partiers will remain focused on health reform and repeal, and their views aren't going to change. But what of swing voters? By November, [conservative David] Frum argues, "the immediate goodies in the healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs."

As Obama adviser David Axelrod asked Politico's Mike Allen, which candidate will want to insist that children be kicked off of health insurance again because they have a preexisting condition, or that small businesses should not get tax credits to help pay for their employers' health insurance. If the health bill moves from unpopular to merely neutral, Tea Party-driven monomania for repeal will seem bizarre, especially if Democrats are talking about jobs.

Republicans retain the momentum going into the fall midterm elections. But they have to be eyeing these polling trends with some trepidation.