Glitches didn’t change the public’s view of Obamacare. But that’s not all good news for Democrats.

October 30, 2013

Americans' views about the federal health-care law have held steady even as the implementation of the law's key components have hit bump after bump in recent weeks.

But that's not all good news for Democrats.

Overall, Americans remain more likely to say the law will make things worse, not better. A new Gallup poll shows Americans' views of how the law effects both them and the country more broadly have barely budged since the summer. In August, nearly a quarter of Americans (24 percent) said they think the law will make things better for their family, while 38 percent said they believe it will make things worse. The better/worse split is now 25/34 percent.

On the question of how the law will affect the heath-care situation across the country, the numbers are also nearly identical to where they were in August.

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A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found a similar sentiment. The highly publicized glitches associated with HealthCare.gov did not change the balance between those who support the law and those who oppose it.

So does this mean Democrats should breathe a sigh of relief after weeks of bad press about the law? To an extent. But there's still ample reason for them to be concerned.

For starters, there was overlap between the rollout of the online exchanges and the government shutdown showdown on Capitol Hill. The latter sucked up the majority of media oxygen for a few weeks.

Second, Democrats want and need to improve the law's image, since it has never been viewed all that positively. A smooth implementation would have helped them do that. But the rollout was anything but smooth.

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Third, majorities of Republicans and independents in the Post-ABC survey said they saw the rollout glitches as part of a broader problem with the health-care law. And more than one in three Democrats (35 percent) agree. That's hardly encouraging for the Obama administration.

Finally, there remains a cavernous divide between the way the two parties view the law. The Post-ABC poll showed that 67 percent of Democrats support the law, compared to just 28 percent of Republicans and 42 percent of independents. If the glitches harden opposition among Republicans and independents, it will be just what Democrats don't need headed into the 2014 midterms, in which many Republicans are hoping to point to problems with the law as a campaign issue.


Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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