Public Support for ACA Continues to Trend Upwards, Particularly Among Young Americans

Several polls released this week show that Americans’ opinions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are steadily becoming more positive, as approval of the law has topped 50% for the first time amidst unsuccessful efforts to repeal and replace it.

Several polls released this week indicate that Americans’ opinions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are steadily becoming more positive, as approval of the law has topped 50% for the first time amidst unsuccessful efforts to repeal and replace it.

A poll by Gallup found a record high approval rating for the ACA at 55%, continuing its steady upswing in support from November 2016, when 53% said they disapproved of it and approval hovered at 42%. Increased support was seen across the political spectrum, but independents were responsible for the largest upward shift of 17 percentage points. Two-thirds of all Americans now favor keeping the ACA, whether in its current state or with significant changes made, while just 3 in 10 want to see it repealed and replaced.

In the wake of the failure of the GOP-led American Health Care Act (AHCA), Americans are divided in their opinions of imminent legislative priorities. The 40% who want the ACA to be kept in place but changed are equally split on whether Congress should make these changes in the coming months or shift its focus to other issues for now. Preferences are slightly more clear among the 30% pushing for repeal and replace, as two-thirds say Congress should continue its work on healthcare.

These findings were mostly echoed in a new Kaiser Health Tracking Poll that found 3 out of 4 Americans now say President Donald Trump and his administration should “do what they can to make the current healthcare law work,” including 54% of Trump’s supporters. This finding may be linked to the attitude that the administration now owns the dilemma of health reform, as 61% say Trump and the Republicans are responsible for any problems with the law since they now they control the government. By contrast, 3 in 10 who would place blame on former President Barack Obama and the Democrats who passed the law.

The Kaiser poll also delved into public opinions of the AHCA, which was withdrawn before a House vote. Most respondents (64%) said the bill’s failure to pass was a good thing, but this group was almost equally split on whether they saw it as good because they did not feel the ACA should be repealed or because they were concerned about the specifics of the AHCA despite supporting ACA repeal more broadly.

Predictably, feelings on the bill’s withdrawal were split along partisan lines; 78% of Democrats said they were relieved while 68% of Republicans felt disappointed. Political views also shaped respondents’ opinions of the reasons behind the bill’s failure and who was to blame. Nearly three-quarters of Democrats said the bill was pulled because it went too far in cutting existing programs, but 58% of Republicans said it was because the AHCA did not go far enough in ending Obamacare. Democrats were most likely to blame Trump for the bill’s failure, while Independents blamed congressional Republicans most and almost half of the Republicans pointed fingers at Democrats in Congress.

With the AHCA dead, views of how the Trump administration should proceed on healthcare remain unclear, with respondents almost equally split on whether lawmakers should move on to other priorities or continue developing a plan for repeal and replace. The Gallup and Kaiser polls did not ask for input on the government’s role in healthcare, but another survey offers insights into the attitudes of a growing demographic group.

According to a poll by GenForward, two-thirds of young people aged 18 to 30 years feel that the federal government is responsible for ensuring citizens have healthcare coverage, compared to 52% of all adults who agree with that view. Approval for the ACA is higher among younger people at 63%, and approximately 1 in 4 want to see it repealed. The individual mandate was opposed by the majority of young people surveyed, while more popular provisions included Medicaid expansion and the ban on denial based on preexisting conditions. The rule allowing young people to stay on their parents’ health plan until age 26 clocked in at 75% approval, making it the ACA’s most strongly favored component among this group.

While rumors swirl around the possibility that Republicans are trying to craft a new healthcare bill, law makers will have to contend with the ACA’s post-election surge in popularity as they determine a path towards repealing and replacing the law.