If part of the Republican strategy for replacing the Affordable Care Act (or, as your friends call it, Obamacare) was to develop and pass a bill quickly, before vocal opposition could be organized, that strategy has failed. It has failed for a number of reasons, including that the proposal has already faced significant, vocal opposition. It has also failed because the net effect of the proposal has been to solidify support for the policy it hoped to replace while earning less support than the Affordable Care Act had shortly before its own passage in 2010.
A new national poll from Fox News lays out the grim math for Republican leadership on Capitol Hill. Only about a third of Americans overall support the American Health Care Act (as the Republican bill is known) strongly or somewhat. While many Americans haven’t yet formed an opinion, more than half oppose the legislation — including 40 percent of the country that strongly opposes it.
As with President Trump’s approval ratings, opinions of the legislation are dragged down by particularly strong opposition from Democrats. But even among independents, fewer than a third support the bill.
Compare that to favorability numbers on Obamacare from the same poll. Half the country views the existing legislation positively, including more than 4 in 10 independents.
Support for Obamacare among Democrats is far higher than support for the Republican replacement bill is among Republicans.
There are a lot of asterisks that apply here, including that the Republican bill is still evolving and not yet well known. But it’s worth comparing where it stands to how people viewed Obamacare shortly before its passage. In Gallup polling taken in March 2010, more people wanted their members of Congress to vote against the bill than for it — but narrowly, by a 45 to 48 percent margin. In that case, too, opposition from the opposing party outweighed support from the party hoping to pass the legislation. Independents, though, were split.
On Wednesday night, Trump seemed to express some frustration with the fact that health care was still working its way through Congress (though it’s been moving at a much faster clip than Obamacare, which took about a year to pass). “We’ve got to get the health care done,” he said at a rally in Nashville. He added, “Then we get on to tax reduction.”
According to the Fox News poll, Americans are more interested in the latter than the former. Asked to prioritize what Trump works on, replacing Obamacare was ranked fifth overall in terms of the issue people thought was most pressing. Even among Republicans, it was tied for fourth on the priority list — with cutting taxes.
The bill is viewed poorly, is viewed less favorably than Obamacare and is not viewed as a priority by the American public. One question that looms over the process now is whether significant changes to the bill will make it more palatable to the public, or whether attitudes about any replacement for Obamacare will fall along similar lines. If so, the Republicans have an even steeper uphill fight than they may have expected.