Poll Marks a Love/Hate View of the Affordable Care Act

Public support for Obamacare tied its all-time low in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll – even as most Americans say the Supreme Court should not block federal subsidies at the heart of the health care law.

With the high court set to rule on the latest challenge to the ACA, the poll reflects the public’s split views of the law – criticism of its insurance mandate, yet support for extended coverage.

See PDF with full results and charts here.

Overall, just 39 percent support the law, down 10 percentage points in a little more than a year to match the record low from three years ago as the Supreme Court debated the constitutionality of the individual mandate. A majority, 54 percent, opposes Obamacare, a scant 3 points shy of the high in late 2013 after the botched rollout of healthcare.gov.

In spite of majority opposition overall, however, 55 percent think the Supreme Court should not block federal subsidies that help some low and moderate income Americans pay for their health insurance. Many fewer, 38 percent, would like to see the Court strike down those subsidies.

Seventy-seven percent of the ACA’s supporters want the Court to rule in favor of keeping the subsidies. But even among opponents of the law overall, this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that four in 10 favor keeping the subsidy system as it stands.

While that may sound contradictory, it’s in fact consistent with longstanding research about views of the ACA. Ask about it overall, and people respond chiefly on the basis of the individual mandate, which is broadly unpopular. Ask about individual elements – such as extending coverage to low-income Americans who’d otherwise lack it – and support is much higher. The challenge is that one relies on the other.

Groups

Views of the law remain closely tied to partisanship and ideology. Democrats and liberals support it by about 2-1 each. Opposition advances to 51 percent of moderates and 56 percent of political independents, and climbs to 78 percent of Republicans, 67 percent of those who say they’re “somewhat” conservative and 82 percent of strong conservatives.

The 10-point drop in support in the past year spans most demographic groups. Support is greater among those with more education, and, despite the law’s aim of helping lower-income adults, among those who are financially better off. The law also wins far more support in urban than in suburban or, especially, rural areas, and much more support among nonwhites (54 percent, including 64 percent of blacks) than whites (32 percent).

Methodology

This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone May 28-31, 2015, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points for the full sample, including design effect. Partisan divisions are 30-22-36 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.

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

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