Bad Polls Are No Reason to Retreat

by Tevi Troy

As the House Republicans move to vote on repealing President Obama’s health-care law, they have received some bad news in the form of two polls showing a lack of interest in repeal. According to an AP poll, only one in four Americans want full repeal. And a USA Today/Gallup poll found that 32 percent of Americans want to repeal the bill.

Republicans are unlikely to let these recent figures change their plans to hold the vote on repeal. Both of these numbers are down from earlier polls, and of course the best national poll, held on Election Day, showed significant concerns about the bill. Still, the newer polls are evidence of the fact that, as Noam Levey wrote in the Los Angeles Times, President Obama “is now more formidable than he was immediately after the Republican electoral victory in November, thanks to a productive lame-duck congressional session and his actions after the Tucson shootings.”

These developments should not come as a surprise. President Obama had a terrible 2010, and political fortunes wax and wane. But the problems with the health-care bill have not gone away just because the president has experienced a recent popularity spike. The bill remains, as Ezra Klein put it, “a clunky piece of legislation.” It still will leave over 20 million Americans uncovered in 2019, even after spending a trillion dollars, imposing a constitutionally dubious mandate to purchase insurance and, according to the CBO, leading to insurance-premium cost increases.

Republicans see the value in putting themselves on record as against this bill. But they also know that the repeal vote is only the first step in what will have to be a multi-front effort to reverse what has been done and to come forward with a more credible alternative.