September 26, 2013

Three polls released in just this week alone all confirm it: Americans oppose defunding Obamacare. This, even though the polls also show disapproval of, or dissatisfaction with, the law.

Veteran GOP pollster Bill McInturff helped conduct one of those polls, the one released this week by CNBC. He tells me in an interview that disapproval of the law does not necessarily translate into support for GOP efforts to defund it.

“There’s not a one-to-one ratio between, `I have a negative view,’ and `I want to have government funding totally eliminated,’” McInturff says.

The CNBC poll finds that 44 percent oppose eliminating funding for Obamacare, versus only 38 percent who favor it — even though 46 percent view Obamacare negatively and only 29 percent view it positively.

Meanwhile, today’s Bloomberg poll finds that Americans say by a margin of 50-43 that Congressional Republicans should accept that Obamacare is the law of the land — even though more say they will be worse off under the law. And today’s New York Times/CBS News poll finds that by 56-38, Americans support upholding Obamacare rather than defunding it — again, even though more say they’ll be worse off under it.

The pattern at this point is overwhelmingly clear: Despite disapproval of the law, GOP efforts to sabotage it are seen as overkill by the American mainstream. In all three of these polls, majorities or pluralities want Republicans to give the law a chance to work.

The CNBC poll, by the way, has some fascinating other findings. For instance, while 46 percent say they view “Obamacare” negatively, that number drops to 37 percent when the law is described as the “Affordable Care Act.” Also: Only three percent say they have had hours reduced because of the law, and only three percent say they have lost private health coverage because of it — suggesting two leading GOP talking points are not matched (yet) by the public’s broader experiences.

However, the poll does find that nearly one in five say their premiums are higher because of the law — another GOP argument against it. But experts tell CNBC’s Steve Liesman that there is no practical way this could be true, and that it’s more likely a response to what they’ve been hearing about the law.

All of this gets to an important point about Obamacare that both sides should keep in mind: Public opinion is far from settled, and people’s practical experiences of it could help shape conclusions about it for some time to come. CNBC will likely ask these same questions in about six months, at which point we’ll have a much clearer view of those conclusions.

“You should be very cautious predicting what these numbers will be like,” McInturff tells me. McInturff says he does think there is a real possibility that opinions on Obamacare could get worse if people find the exchanges are limiting their options. But he also says it’s quite possible that “subgroups who might be helped might become core supporters.”

That latter scenario is what some Obamacare proponents are hoping for — constituencies will evolve who will be alienated if Republicans keep up their drive to destroy the law.

I asked McInturff what it meant that Republicans were interpreting disapproval of the law as support for their efforts to defund or delay it.

“The big picture finding is, They are comfortably aligned with the core part of their political base,” McInturff said of Republicans and their defunding push. “But the data would indicate that beyond their core political base, they’re on fuzzier terrain.”

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.