Obamacare’s Not Winning Any Popularity Contests

Supporters of the law said it would get more popular with time, but that’s not been the case.

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With much of the Affordable Care Act, known to many as Obamacare, set to go into effect in 2014, a spate of new polling is seeking to discover whether people have warmed to the law since its passage three years ago. The results should be less than encouraging for supporters of the president's reform.

A majority of Americans remain opposed to the law, according to a CNN survey out this week. Earlier this month, a Reason/Rupe poll corroborated those numbers, finding that just 32 percent of Americans liked the law when it was passed and still like it today.

But the more revealing data point from that survey was the number who said they did not like the law when it was passed but have come to like it more: that subgroup came to a meager 4 percent of the population, a third as many as liked the law at first and have come to like it less with time. Meanwhile, a plurality of Americans didn't like it then and have not changed their minds.

[See a collection of political cartoons on health care.]

This, more than the aggregate percentages who favor and oppose the law, is newsworthy, because it directly contradicts the expectations of Obamacare supporters circa 2010. Many of those took solace in the belief that the public would come around once the Affordable Care Act became the law of the land. But nearly a year after the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality, little has changed. The law remains unpopular, with more people drifting away than evolving to support it.

This, of course, is all preliminary. The most dramatic provisions of the legislation will not be implemented until next winter, when real people's lives will be impacted by regulations like the ones creating "insurance exchanges," limiting insurers' ability to turn away or charge more to cover individuals with pre-existing medical conditions and dinging people with monetary penalties for going uninsured. Then, too, will we learn whether the dire predictions of conservative opponents, who believe full implementation will mean higher costs and fewer choices, will be realized.

Still, the stagnant polling numbers must be disheartening for those who thought Obamacare's favorables would increase as people learned more about it. Instead, Quinnipiac revealed in March that more Americans think the law will hurt them personally (37 percent) than think it will help them (15 percent). Obamacare supporters can only be hoping the fourth year of the law's implementation goes better for them than the first three have.

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