June 25, 2015

From the very start, sharp partisan divisions over Obamacare

Wide Partisan Gaps Persist in Support for the ACA

Opponents of President Obama’s health care law have fought it on many fronts, ranging from multiple efforts by House Republicans to repeal or alter it to the legal challenge spearheaded by conservatives that led to today’s Supreme Court ruling on the law, which upheld a key provision. One constant in the battle over the Affordable Care Act has been the depth of the partisan divide over the legislation.

The partisan divisions over this issue are long-standing and deeply entrenched. Six years ago, when the legislation was still being debated, 61% of Democrats and just 12% of Republicans favored the proposal. In the five years since the ACA became law, those differences have endured.

In February, nearly nine-in-ten Republicans (87%) were opposed to the law, while just 11% approved of it, according to a Pew Research Center survey. In sharp contrast, 78% of Democrats approved of the law, including 89% of liberal Democrats, while just 19% disapproved. Independents disapproved of the law by a 58%-to-39% margin.

The ACA and the VoteThe intensity of that divide was apparent in a survey conducted in April 2014, leading up to last year’s midterm elections. About two-thirds (64%) of Republican registered voters said a candidate’s position on the ACA was very important to their vote, compared with 52% of Democrats and 45% of independents.

Aside from specific views on the ACA, Americans are also divided on the overarching issue of how far the government should go in providing health care, according to our 2014 survey on polarization in the public. Overall, about half (47%) said the government has a responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care coverage, while 50% said this is not the responsibility of the federal government.

The level of ideological polarization in opinions about the government’s responsibility to provide health care was striking. Fully 89% of adults with consistently liberal views said it was the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have health care coverage. Just 2% of those with consistently conservative attitudes agreed.

Looking beyond the court case, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey conducted in June found that partisans and the public at large were divided about whether the debate over the ACA should continue as the country heads into the 2016 elections. About half (49%) of the overall public said it was important to keep the debate going, while 45% said they were tired of hearing about it and wanted to move on to other issues. This divide was also reflected among Republicans, Democrats and independents.

Topics: Health Care, U.S. Political Parties, Health

  1. Photo of Samantha Smith

    is a research assistant focusing on U.S. politics and policy at Pew Research Center.


  1. J M Goff2 years ago

    I agree that marriage is not the right title for those of the same sex. They need another name that gives them the same benefits without involving the word “marriage.” It seems ridiculous for them to call each other husband or wife, so they need to change those names as well.

    I SAW, on TV, Obama toss his health care act onto a table and HEARD him say, “There it is for anyone to read.” No one took an interest until the health care act was passed. Then, we began to hear all of this noise. Where was everyone when they had the first chance?

  2. Packard Day2 years ago

    Anyone with a significant equity position in the Obamacare health insurance industry (i.e. Humana, AETNA, Cigna, United, and WellPoint) since March 9, 2009 has quadrupled their investment. Got that? A $100K investment back then in any one of the above companies is now worth over $400K today. Not Gulfsteam coin to be sure, but certainly more than weekend hamburger and soda money.

    Yesterday’s SCOTUS decision codified and locked-in these profits going forward. Far better than investing in cigarettes where the customer is merely addicted to a cheaply manufactured product, Obamacare delivers government “required” customer participation in private healthcare insurance equity. Really good stuff if you are an investor [Think of it as, “Heads we win, tails we simply raise the premiums, deductibles, and co-pays for everyone else.”].

  3. Dave Gliserman2 years ago

    Being of an age that I can recall something of the LBJ years it seems to me that the Republicans had their shorts in a wad for a long time after the passage of Medicare. The irony is that now when those same ardent protesters are well along in years they wouldn’t live without it.

  4. CYRIL McCAFFERY2 years ago

    I think the problem with Same Se marriage is the name of the commitment.

    The formal commitment of two same-sex people into a permanent relationship should have a name different to “MARRIAGE”

    i seem to remember that a UK newspaper (I think the Daily Telegraph) had a composition to find such a name, but I never did hear the result.

    Perhaps the US should have a similar competition.

    It would take away the religious objections, and give same sex marriages an accepted title.