Race remains an impenetrable dividing line in attitudes about the Affordable Care Act five years after President Obama signed it into law.
With Obama celebrating the law's fifth anniversary last week—and House and Senate Republicans marking the occasion by voting again to repeal it—polls show that whites remain much more dubious about the law than African-Americans, with Hispanics falling in between.
In the latest monthly tracking poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, 67 percent of African-Americans and 48 percent of Hispanics, compared with just 34 percent of whites, said they had a favorable impression of the law. Among all minorities, 55 percent expressed a favorable view of the law.
"There is a huge difference [in attitudes] about the importance of achieving universal coverage by race and by party, and this resentment of government intervention is just very high among [white] Americans," says Robert J. Blendon, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health who specializes in public opinion about health care.
This enduring racial contrast confounds the expectations of both parties. As far back as President Clinton's effort to provide universal coverage in 1993, key Democratic strategists have viewed health reform as an opportunity to convince skeptical middle-class voters (particularly whites) that activist government could tangibly benefit their lives. Again, extending back to that debate in the 1990s, key Republican strategists long feared that they were right.