Criticisms of Health Law Resonate - But Repeal Is Another Matter

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Although it has the biggest gap, the deficit is the least decisive factor in support for the reform law. The law is opposed by 65 percent of those who think it'll boost the deficit, leaving 31 percent in this group who support it anyway. By contrast, it's opposed by 79 percent of those who think it'll cut jobs and by 83 percent of those who think it'll hurt the economy.

People who think it'll help the economy or the jobs situation, conversely, overwhelmingly support it. (As reported separately, 72 percent of Americans call the economy the highest-priority item for Obama and the Congress, far and away No. 1 on the list.)

OBAMA SLIPPAGE -- Concerns about the law's impact are mitigated to some extent by support for its popular provisions, chiefly in terms of expanding coverage. Nonetheless the negatives may be contributing to political slippage on the issue for President Obama.

As noted in results this morning, Obama's approval rating for handling health care reform dropped to 43 percent in this poll, matching his career low. Fifty-two percent disapprove, and "strong" disapprovers outnumber strong approvers by a 15-point margin.

In trust to handle the issue, Obama's gone from a 13-point advantage over the Republicans in Congress last month, 51-38 percent, to an even split this month, 42-42 percent. It's a month in which the Republicans have been hammering away -- to some success, as these results show -- at the health care law's potential impacts on the deficit, the economy and jobs.

GROUPS AND CONSISTENCY -- There are differences among groups in basic views of the law in addition to partisan and ideological divisions. Support is 10 points higher among people under 50 than among their elders; it peaks at 51 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds and bottoms out at 38 percent among seniors.

Support also is vastly higher among non-whites (62 percent) than whites (39 percent); nonwhites are far more apt to be Democrats. Support is 9 points higher among college graduates than among those with less education, peaking at 56 percent among those with post-graduate educations.

Finally, whatever the public's conflicts, Americans can't be accused of inconsistency; views on the law have been remarkably stable. In nearly a dozen ABC/Post polls since August 2009 it's averaged 45 percent support, 50 percent opposed -- both precisely the same as they are now.

METHODOLOGY -- This ABC News-Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 13-16, 2011, among a random national sample of 1,053 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y, with sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

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