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Six charts to explain health-care polling

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Pollsters have asked Americans hundreds of questions about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in recent years. You can boil down all of that data into six charts — and we do just that below. Enjoy!

1. Law never gained majority support

Fewer than half of Americans have supported the law in every major poll since its passage. A significant portion of this opposition comes from those who say the law did not go far enough in changing the U.S. health-care system. Looked at another way, the law has been tarred and feathered from the left and the right.

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2. Partisanship reigned from day one

Less than a month after the ACA was signed into law, Republicans and Democrats took sharply opposing positions on the law. The partisan divide has shrunk slightly since then, but the basic storyline remains the same: Democrats like the law, Republicans despise it and independents tilt against it. 

Kaiser Family Foundation tracking polls

3. Individual mandate is a clunker, the rest of law is popular

Despite its lagging overall ratings, support for most components of the law do achieve majority support. At least six in 10 support requiring insurance companies to provide coverage to people with preexisting conditions, expand Medicaid and close the Medicare “doughnut hole,” according to an April Kaiser Family Foundation poll. The individual mandate – a centerpiece of constitutional challenges to the law that the Supreme Court decides on today – is a complete clunker. Just 30 percent of Americans had a favorable view of requiring people to have health insurance by 2014 or else pay a fine.

4. Knowledge lacking, rumors persist

The Affordable Care Act is a complicated piece of legislation, but as the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Drew Altman pointed out last summer, most people agree it will help people who are currently uninsured. But Kaiser’s polling finds only three in 10 uninsured Americans ages 18 to 64 think it will help their situation.

“Death panel” rumors have also stuck, however. More than one in three Americans in a March KFF poll said (incorrectly) that the law will empower a government panel to “make decisions about end-of-life care for people on Medicare.” In addition, 52 percent think the law creates a new government-run insurance plan. The so called public option, of course, was scuttled before the final bill was passed.

Kaiser Family Foundation poll, August 2011

5. Most people won’t be happy

Fewer than half of Americans will be pleased no matter whether the Supreme Court validates the law, throws out the highly unpopular individual mandate or rejects the entire law, according to a June Pew poll.

The high court’s ability to lead is also in question: Just 40 percent of the public in an April Post-ABC poll said they expect the Court to rule on the basis of the law while 50 percent thought they would rely on partisan political views. The Court’s favorability ratings also hit a quarter-century low this year, according to Pew.

6. Health care is clearly a second tier voting issue in 2012

Health care will be the focus of today’s news, but it’s unlikely to be the top issue for voters in November. A 52 percent majority of Americans volunteered “the economy” or “jobs” as the single most important issue in their vote this year in a May Washington Post-ABC News poll. Health care came in second, but at just 7 percent. Health care will matter in 2012, but not nearly as much as the economy.

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