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York: Obamacare getting more unpopular as time passes

Published: Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 8:28 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 8:34 p.m. CST

Democrats have long believed Obamacare would become more popular once it was fully in place and Americans got a chance to see it up close. So why is Obamacare less popular now than a few months ago? Because it is fully in place and Americans have had a chance to see it up close.

According to new polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has closely tracked Obamacare for years, 37 percent of those surveyed have a favorable view of the Affordable Care Act, while 53 percent have an unfavorable view. That’s an 8-percentage-point jump in unfavorability over last month, and a two-point drop in favorability over the same time.

It’s not because millions of Americans have suddenly become conservative Republicans. Kaiser found that disapproval of Obamacare has risen across the board. Among Democrats, for example, the law’s unfavorable rating jumped six points in July, while its favorable rating fell four points.

Obamacare’s unfavorables also rose among all income groups – people who make less than $40,000 a year, those who make between $40,000 and $90,000 a year, and those who make more than $90,000. The same among all age groups. And the same for race and ethnicity: Disapproval rose among whites, blacks, and Hispanics.

A majority of the people who said Obamacare has directly helped them said its prime benefit was greater access to health coverage and care. A majority of those who said Obamacare has directly hurt them said its main effect was to increase their health costs.

Overall, the numbers reflect Obamacare’s design; it was intended to offer taxpayer-subsidized health coverage to a relatively small group of people (the roughly 15 percent of the population that had no health coverage) by imposing costs on the far larger group who had coverage and were satisfied with it.

What is unclear is how those experiences will affect November’s midterms. Democrats have veered between fearing that Obamacare will spell complete disaster, to hoping it might actually be a benefit, to assuming it will be a negative, but maybe not by much.

The answer will depend on those people who say they’ve been hurt by Obamacare. Will that experience determine their vote? Or will they view their own problems as negligible and base their vote on something else? Democrats have a lot riding on the answer.

• Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.

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