The poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, surveyed 1,000 adults ages 18 and over from July 18-21 by landline and cell phone. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
Though the survey also found that only about one-third of Americans want to repeal the health care law, the poll documented a marked deterioration in expectations about the plan's impact since last September, the previous time the Congressional Connection Poll tested these attitudes. At that point, Obama was regularly making the case for the reform during his reelection campaign. But since then, he has defended the law more rarely while Republicans in Congress and the states have maintained an unrelenting drumbeat of opposition to it.
The administration has also faced the headwinds of mixed reports about the law's impact on premiums in the individual health care market; choices by Republican governors not to participate in core elements of the plan; and its own decision to delay implementation of the mandate on large employers to insure their workers.
After all those developments, just 35 percent of those surveyed in the new poll said they believed the law will benefit "people like you or your family," while 46 percent expected it would make things worse for them. That's a decline from last September, when 43 percent expected improvement and 40 percent anticipated harm.
Two other measures found even greater slippage. Just 36 percent of those surveyed say the law will "make things better" for the middle class, while 49 percent say they expect it will "make things worse." That's another steep decline from September, when 45 percent said it would help, and 40 percent said it would hurt, the middle-class.
Likewise, the share of adults who say the law will benefit the country overall fell by a comparable amount. Last September, a 50-percent-to-39-percent majority thought the law would make things better, rather than worse, for the nation overall. But in the new poll those numbers have almost reversed: Just 41 percent expect benefits for the country, while a 48 percent plurality believe the law will make things worse.
Expectations on those three key measures have slipped since last September among both minorities and whites, but the two groups continue to display almost precisely mirror-image attitudes about the law. For instance, minorities by a 56-percent-to-27-percent majority expect the law to benefit middle-class families; whites by a 58-percent-to-27-percent majority expect it to hurt them. Minorities, by 59 percent to 29 percent, believe the law will be good for the country overall; whites, by 57 percent to 34 percent, believe it will hurt it. Perhaps most important, minorities by 54 percent to 25 percent believe the law will improve things for them and their families, while whites by 55 percent to 27 percent say it will "make things worse" in their own lives.