The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

By a 2-to-1 margin, Americans prefer Obamacare to Republican replacements

Protesters gather across the Chicago River from Trump International Hotel and Tower Tower in Chicago on March 24 to rally against efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

Republicans racing to pass a bill that would overhaul the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare) certainly understand that their efforts aren’t polling well. In survey after survey, a majority of respondents view their legislative proposals unfavorably. At the same time, survey after survey shows Obamacare as more popular than not.

In the new Washington Post-ABC News poll released Sunday, we decided to ask the question directly: Which do you prefer, Obamacare or the Republican replacement plan?

By a 2-to-1 margin — 50 percent to 24 percent — Americans said they preferred Obamacare.

There’s a split by party, as you might expect, with Democrats broadly favoring the existing law and Republicans the latter. But that split wasn’t even, with 77 percent of Democrats favoring the legislation passed in 2010 by their party and only 59 percent of Republicans favoring their party’s solution. Independents in this case came down on the side of the Democrats, with 49 percent favoring the existing law vs. 20 percent backing the GOP alternative.

What’s more, roughly 6 in 10 Democrats and a third of independents strongly prefer Obamacare. Only 43 percent of Republicans strongly prefer their party’s proposal.

Some respondents, unprompted, said they preferred some other proposal, or neither. One in 10 Democrats offered one of those responses, while about 2 in 10 Republicans and independents did.

More worrisome for Republicans hoping to pass a new bill is how the support broke out by demographic. Only among Republicans, conservatives, white evangelicals and white men without college degrees did more Americans support the GOP bill than Obamacare. In every other group analyzed, including older respondents and white women without college degrees — an important part of President Trump’s voting base in 2016 — backed the existing law by some margin.

Even among whites without college degrees, views were about split, once margins of error are taken into account.

These results aren’t surprising, as such, given the surfeit of polling showing how unpopular the Republican bill is. But it’s surprising when seen through the lens of the 2016 election, when Obamacare was unpopular and the GOP was pushing hard for its replacement. When Republicans gained control of the Capitol and White House, that replacement became a real possibility — and, suddenly, the idea became much more unpopular.