The American public is now evenly split in its opinion of the Affordable Care Act, an improvement in the law's standing, according to a new Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll.
Some 47 percent of American adults support the law known as Obamacare, and 47 percent are opposed, finds the poll, conducted between April 26 and May 1.
This result is just one indicator – and a tentative one – that when the Obamacare marketplaces outperformed expectations by exceeding 7 million people enrolled, the news may have given Obamacare a boost in public opinion. So far, other recent polls still find that more people disapprove of the law than approve, and that public opinion is little changed since the April 1 enrollment deadline.
When the Monitor/TIPP poll asked in a late March survey whether people support or oppose the health-care law passed in 2010, more than half were opposed (51 percent) and 40 percent said they support the law.
So the even split between the “support” and “oppose” camps, in the new poll, looks like a considerable change since March.
“They are in a statistical dead heat,” says pollster Raghavan Mayur, president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, by e-mail.
The margin of error, an estimate of how much the poll results may differ from actual public opinion, is 3.4 percentage points, similar to other national polling on the subject. Although the margin of error makes poll results a bit fuzzy, Mr. Mayur says support for the law “has increased” since late March.
With other polls not seeing that trend, what remains to be seen is whether the Monitor/TIPP result is a temporary outlier or an early sign that views toward the law are becoming a bit more positive.
Public opinion about the law is important because health-care policy promises to remain an issue of heated political debate. Republicans are hoping to leverage opposition to the law in their favor in congressional elections, while Democrats are hoping their support of the law won’t be too much of a liability.
This year marks the law’s major rollout phase, with “exchanges,” or marketplaces, including the federal HealthCare.gov website launching for individuals to shop for coverage that complies with the law.
Even an improved public view of the law isn’t a rosy one.
In the Monitor/TIPP poll, fully 44 percent of respondents say Congress should repeal the law. One of the act’s less-popular provisions is the “individual mandate,” which calls on people to buy insurance this year (if they don’t have it already) or face a possible tax penalty.
The high cost of health care remains a public concern (as it was before the law), and many Americans worry about having limited access to particular doctors and care providers under the health plans available on the Obamacare exchanges.
Other elements of the law are popular, such as a provision to ensure that people can obtain insurance regardless of preexisting medical conditions.
When the White House reported that the number of people applying for insurance on the exchanges surged to 8 million as of early April, President Obama sought to use the news to galvanize public support.
“Independent experts now estimate that millions of Americans who were uninsured have gained coverage this year – with millions more to come next year and the year after,” Mr. Obama said on April 17. “This thing is working.”
Pollsters, in framing their survey questions about the ACA, characterize it as a "health reform law" or a "law making changes to the health-care system." (The Monitor/TIPP poll calls it the "health care law passed in 2010, also known as Obamacare.") For comparison, here is the mix of late-April poll results regarding Obamacare (as tracked by the website PollingReport.com), presented in chronological order from the most recent poll to one that concluded on April 21.
Christian Science Monitor/TIPP:
47 percent support (up from 40 percent in March)
47 percent oppose (down from 51 percent in March)
ABC News/Washington Post:
44 percent support (down from 49 percent in March)
48 percent oppose (unchanged from March)
Pew Research/USA Today:
41 percent approve (unchanged since March)
55 percent disapprove (up from 53 percent in March)
NBC News/Wall Street Journal:
36 percent say law is a “good idea” (up from 35 percent in March)
46 percent say “bad idea” (down from 49 percent in March)
Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll:
38 percent have favorable view (unchanged since March)
46 percent have unfavorable view (unchanged since March)