Two new polls show declining support for fully repealing Obamacare. Does this mean the GOP, on the verge of passing a bill repealing Obamacare in the House, should back down?
Not so, say GOP pollsters, who argue that the poll questions are poorly worded and that the demographic samples include a disproportionate number of Democrats.
Take the AP poll, which shows that 40 percent of adults support Obamacare and 41 percent oppose it. In November, the last time the AP polled this question, 38 percent supported Obamacare and 47 percent opposed it. But the sample in November was very different: 38 percent Republican and 39 percent Democrat. The sample in January wasn’t so balanced, with 42 percent of the responders Democrat and 36 percent Republican.
Even with the skewed demographics, Kellyanne Conway, president of the polling company, inc./WomanTrend, points out that there also remains “a huge difference in intensity,” with 30 percent strongly opposing Obamacare compared to 21 percent strongly supporting it.
Conway also notes that when asked if they would favor a law “that would require every American to have health insurance, or pay money to the government as a penalty if they do not, unless the person is very poor,” 59 percent are opposed. “When they actually hear what the health care reform is, they’re opposed to it,” she says.
The Marist poll finds that 35 percent of registered voters would like Obamacare changed so that it could do more, 13 percent would like it to do less, and 30 percent would prefer the law be fully repealed. But again, the numbers aren’t equal: 35 percent of those polled were Democrat, and 28 percent Republican. Exit polls for the 2010 election found equal numbers of Democrat and Republican voters, both parties represented by about 36 percent of voters respectively.
In addition, a GOP strategist notes that someone who favors buying insurance across state lines or reforming medical malpractice could interpret the Marist poll choices such that he picks the option that he would like Obamacare to do more.
But the pollsters also point out that many voters didn’t just want Obamacare repealed — they also wanted it replaced with a better system, a distinction that they fear these two polls didn’t adequately address with their word choices. John McLaughlin, CEO of McLaughlin and Associates, notes that when his firm asked voters in November if they would prefer to leave Obamacare as is, or repeal and replace it, 30 percent preferred that Obamacare be left in place, and 60 percent wanted it repealed and replaced.
Pollster Scott Rasmussen says that the GOP shouldn’t interpret these new polls as a signal to slow down their efforts to repeal Obamacare.
“People expect the Republicans to do this. It’s an absolutely essential thing for them,” says Rasmussen. “If they didn’t repeal it, the Republican party would be in deep trouble with their own base.”
“People plainly spoke all through 2010,” agrees Conway. “They expect this new Congress they put there to repeal it. And they expect them to work on something different.”