Obamacare Is No Longer So Unpopular

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Opinion on the Affordable Care Act remains divided, but only a minority support repeal.

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One of the most accurate polling outfits in the country found this week that President Obama's signature achievement is no longer unpopular with the majority of the country.

The Affordable Care Act, according to a Washington Post/ABC News survey, is now backed by 47 percent of Americans, up from 39 percent in April 2012. Opposition to the law in the wake of the Supreme Court decision upholding it is also down, from 53 to 47 percent.

The topline conclusion The Post put out is that opinion on the law remains deadlocked, which is very much the case. But another way of looking at it is that support or opposition to the law is increasingly partisan, which is what pretty much every survey shows, including the Post one.

People forget that for a long time part of the law's broad unpopularity came from Democratic dissatisfaction with it. But "the legislation is now viewed less negatively than it was before the [Supreme Court] ruling," according to The Post. And while the poll doesn't say who changed their views, it stands to reason Democratic unhappiness with the bill is more likely to have softened than GOP objections since it was upheld.

As well, "just one-third of all Americans favor repealing the legislation in its entirety or in part," a number that's been pretty consistent in these polls since 2010. The Republican-controlled U.S. House yesterday made its 33rd failed attempt to repeal part or all of the law (failed only because Democrats still control the Senate, not because the bill didn't pass the House).

Romney has made "repeal and replace" into a campaign mantra, promising to undo the law. But that vow is a promise to his base voters and to partisans rather than an appeal to the majority of the country: "Thirty-eight percent of Americans consider Romney's support for repeal a major reason to vote for him, compared with 29 percent who say it is a major reason to vote against him."

According to The Post:

Partisans are also fairly well lined up behind their parties' presidential candidates on the issue: 80 percent of Democrats have favorable views of President Obama's plans for health care; most, but fewer Republicans -- 62 percent -- have positive views of Mitt Romney's ideas.

One potential trouble spot for both campaigns, however, is that independents tilt away from both approaches. Independents lead away from Obama's plans: 38 percent favorable to 52 percent unfavorable. The percentage of independents with negative views of Romney's plans outnumbers positive impressions by twenty percentage points (46 to 26 percent, with a sizable 28 percent expressing no opinion).

In short, independents don't really like what either candidate is offering -- one more reason for both sides to shy away from making health-care into a major focus in the presidential campaign going forward.

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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