February 23, 2017

Support for 2010 health care law reaches new high

With congressional Republicans discussing proposals to replace the Affordable Care Act, public support for the 2010 health care law has reached its highest level on record.

Currently, 54% approve of the health care law passed seven years ago by Barack Obama and Congress, while 43% disapprove, according to a national Pew Research Center survey conducted Feb. 7-12 among 1,503 adults.

Throughout the law’s history, opinions about the Affordable Care Act have tended to be more negative than positive — or, less frequently, divided. As recently as December, about as many approved (48%) as disapproved (47%) of the law.

The new survey finds that when those who disapprove of the law are asked about what should happen to it now, more want GOP congressional leaders to focus their efforts on modifying the law than on getting rid of it. One-in-four adults want Republican leaders to modify the law, while 17% want them to get rid of it entirely. 

As in the past, there are deep partisan divisions over the health care law. Democrats overwhelmingly support the law, with 85% expressing approval. Among independents, about half (53%) approve of the health care law, while 45% disapprove. By contrast, Republicans broadly disapprove of the law (89%); just 10% express approval.

Republicans who disapprove of the health care law are divided on whether GOP congressional leaders should modify the health care law or get rid of it entirely. Nearly equal shares say Republican leaders in Congress should focus their efforts on modifying the law (42%) and focus on getting rid of it entirely (44%).

Among independents, nearly twice as many say Republican leaders should focus on modifying the law rather than scrapping it (29% vs. 15%).

Views of Obama’s health care law: 2010-2017

Independents have grown in their support of the health care law in the past year. As was the case in December, about half (53%) now approve of the Affordable Care Act. In October, shortly before the election, 41% of independents approved of the law.

About three-quarters of Democratic-leaning independents (78%) support the health care law, little changed from December, but up 14 percentage points since October (from 64%). Opinions of Republican-leaning independents have shown less change; currently, 22% favor the law.

Democratic support for the law, which dipped in December, has increased 12 points since then (from 73% to 85%). There has been little recent change in Republicans’ views of the health care law.

Younger adults are more likely than older people to approve of the health care law. Today, by about two-to-one, those younger than 30 approve (65% approve vs. 31% disapprove). In October, opinion among young people was more evenly divided (51% approve vs. 45% disapprove). Since then, support also has increased among those ages 50 to 64 (52% now, 40% then).

Postgraduates continue to express broad approval of the health care law: About two-thirds (68%) approve today, which is little changed from October. Among college graduates, a majority today expresses approval of the law (58%) – on par with the share who approved in December (56%), but up 10 points from before the election. In October, college graduates were divided; as many approved as disapproved (48% each).

Among whites, the educational divide is even wider. A 64% majority of white postgraduates approve of the law, equal to the share that expressed approval in October. White college graduates today have ticked up in their support for the health care law: About half (52%) currently approve, compared with 41% in October.

But among whites with some college experience or less education, a majority (62%) disapproves of the Affordable Care Act, compared with just about a third who approve (36%). In October, 30% approved of the law.

Note: Survey methodology can be found here, and topline can be found here (PDF).

Topics: Barack Obama, Health Care, U.S. Political Parties, Domestic Affairs and Policy, Political Issue Priorities

  1. Photo of Hannah Fingerhut

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


  1. Anonymous5 months ago

    The poor need the Affordable Care Act. I favor caring for them.
    Pauline K Blandina

  2. Anonymous5 months ago

    Save it i have it and i like it

  3. Anonymous5 months ago

    Fundamental question: why involve party ideologIES, when regarless of races ,it would
    let millions of persons without health insurance.
    In meantime, the cost of healthcare is the abuse of Insurance industries, the administrative hospital management, the oppotunities given to unscrupulos doctors to
    mislead people’á healthcare conditions, the lack of etiquete given to prexisting and future healthcare provider in teaching institutions,
    the lack of a Federal, State regulatory agencies to oversee and enforce free lance medical prectice in clinics, hospitals without
    supervision of a medical board. to monitor
    a doctor, nurse, medical student in the surgery room? Do not forget, hospital medical predadors inside providing non necessary equipment at expenses of Medicare.tv, phone are non necessary even if customer pays for it.Better, a health monitor
    where nurse station could provide an emergency call when is needed.
    What about pharmaceutical industry? just ignorance? We are the scapegoat, now, we pay for a pill as a copay $20,00. The same medicine, same laboratory in other countries
    is just a fraction of cost for medicare, genera l public for the same prescription? Look what is going on, the largest corporations, say Wallmart, and so on, work force is just healtcare insurance almost non exiSting due lack of legislation which allows prevailing practices? Due to Lobbing? Stock Markets,
    500 fortune companies making money, and more money at expenses of ?
    Last call, A wall, a waste of public money?
    invest that money in Commerce infrastructure, we need it, do not wait for the International to recue American Industries,
    let them to compite with USA legitimate products.
    Finally, if it is true that non legal immigrants
    are sending billions of dollars across Rio Grande, our belive is that here in USA industry
    may be is getting back three times as much
    in net profits, and a minimum % tax to Uncle Sam?
    Read, Machiavelli, “the best admistrator is the one who graduated. from the University of HARD KNOCKS?
    In general oppinion, it would be better to pay now the money investment for the wall, invest it in future medical students-Free tuition, IN return FREE labour 4vyrs. Just, pay them average a National average salary, or better, barreras Dr. makes only $120,000 a year. MD specialists $250.000, just pay them these salaries, and chaos healthcare could be up grade to Storm I cathegory.
    Just, I am kidding.


  4. Luise Snell5 months ago

    Support the Affordable Care Act. The White House just sent out an e-mail to Republicans stating that the affordable care act is unaffordable. He is encouraging his base to support the repeal and replacement of the affordable care act. Undoubtedly, he will gain the support of older Americans, the poor, and uneducated Americans who do not understand that they are the ones most in need of the benefits of the ACA. Especially those living in states that expanded Medicaid. We as a country, need to care for our citizens who cannot afford healthcare even if the wealthy have to pay more or don’t get their tax breaks. They can afford it, they just don’t want to.

  5. Anonymous5 months ago

    I’m disappointed that Pew Research did not survey/point out that if one asks about the individual parts of the ACA like allowing ones children to stay on coverage until a certain age (26?) or no annual / lifetime caps OR the all important no-prior-conditions exclusion, then there is overwhelming support for the law!

    The last surveys showed support in the high 80% rang for the popular parts. The individual mandate is the “hated” part of the law.

    However, if one asks about “Obama Care” the same folks that liked almost all of the parts of the ACA law HATE “Obama Care”!

    And please remember that about 30% of USA folks do not realize/understand that “Obama Care” and the ACA are the same law.

  6. Michael Frawley5 months ago

    I am 69 years old and receive health insurance through the medicare program (thank you president johnson). My wife is ill, cancer, unable to work and does not qualify for disability due to the timing of quarters worked. I am her care giver 24/7. We live on a fixed income. Attempting to pay for pvt insurance and for additonal medical expenses caused us to go into debt.

    The affordable care act has enabled my wife to obtain insurance and receive the health care she needs.

    We fully support the affordable care act and everyone ‘s right to receive good healthcare.

  7. Junjie Chen5 months ago

    The sample is also weighted to adjust to match the population landscape.

  8. Anonymous5 months ago

    The question should be: What has Congress seen fit to provide for themselves and their families and at what price?
    The next question is why can’t everyone get access to the same insurance as Congress provides for it’s members at our expense?

  9. Anonymous5 months ago

    Support for the ACA obviously comes from those that pay relatively little for Health Care (and have low deductibles). I’m an Independent Consultant, age 59 (and my wife age 52, unemployed), we paid nearly $10K for Health Care coverage in 2016 (nearly 10% of my before-tax/income), and that came with a $12K family deductible. Essentially we paid $10K for nothing. In 2017 that coverage went up to $12K, with a $14K deductile. So, in 2017, I am rolling the dice and have no health care – thanks for nothing Obama-Care. I will pay the ACA/penalty instead, which will be far cheaper than paying for the ridiculously expensive health coverage that is offered to independents, and pay for doctors visits as I need them. If the poll researched only people like us – I’m sure the results would be overwhelmingly “NOT” in favor of the ACA.

    1. Mark L5 months ago

      You’re in luck, Trump signed an executive order which should eliminate any tax penalty for not having health insurance.

    2. Hal Buhr5 months ago

      Your in luck, now those who get their insurance through their employer will pay for the ACA’s replacement.

      “…The replacement would be paid for by limiting tax breaks on generous health plans people get at work — an idea that is similar to the Obamacare “Cadillac tax” that Republicans have fought to repeal…”


      So, you will pay nothing since you have no HC insurance. As someone who has HC insurance, I hope you stay healthy so those of us who pay for HC insurance are not forced to pay for yours. I imagine you already know that taxpayers pick up your tab.

    3. Anonymous5 months ago

      It’s the insurance companies that are screwing you. Not the ACA. The ACA doesn’t determine your monthly payments or deductibles.

      I prefer single-payer but I’m grateful for the ACA. I could not purchase health insurance for 7 years after I tore my ACL. When the injury happened, I was insured. They dropped me and refused to cover the surgery.

    4. Anonymous5 months ago

      I believe your contempt is misdirected. The annual increases in insurance costs have been part of the industry for decades. The only difference is that when the monthly premium was only $200, employers were willing to absorb the extra 20% increase to satisfy employees. Compounding the increases, the monthly premiums have grown to over $800 in a relatively short period of time. Employers are feeling the hit, and can no longer absorb the cost at a rate that exceeds the rate of growth of their businesses.
      With or without ACA the insurance companies would have continued the trend; it is just unfortunate timing that the expense reached critical mass during the time of an administration that was looking to solve the problem.
      The real issue is: why are health insurance company stocks allowed to be traded on the stock exchange? When insurance companies are looking to create a favorable picture to stockholders, they cannot be looking to satisfy the needs of the insureds or even the healthcare providers (who have also suffered reduced fee rates). Shame on the health insurance companies!

  10. Anonymous5 months ago

    The most telling statistic: the less educated you are the more likely you are to oppose the ACA. Republicans have done a remarkable job of getting these people to vote against their own interests.

    An angry and ill-educated underclass is critical to Republican electoral success – that is why there is always a push for “school choice”, where public money can be diverted to religious schools where critical and scientifically sound thinking is discouraged.

  11. Anonymous5 months ago

    Obviously this respondents were not ACA participants. ACA has done nothing to reduce healthcare, worse it has given insurance companies free rein to use ACA as an excuse to raise their premiums, limit benefits, increase deductibles and reduce access to care. As an ACA participant, my daughter and I will pay $11,000 in deductibles and premiums before our insurance carrier has to pay one dime towards our “affordable” healthcare. What’s worse is that patients have no protection against out-of-network billing through in-network providers. I’ve paid thousands of dollars beyond my deductible and premiums to out-of-network providers that were not disclosed to me. Oh, and NONE of these costs count towards my deductible or out-of-pocket maximums. We have NO rights under ACA. Providers and Payers have no incentive to help patients. They are out to make a buck.

    When the IRS decided that I had estimated my income too low, they simply stopped paying subsidies without notification nor explanation. So my insurance carrier dropped my coverage without notification. It took me months to get this reversed and corrected.

    If you are going to generate a poll regarding ACA, I suggest that you do it legitimately and ask people who are directly dealing with ACA, not media driven hype one way or the other.

    1. Anonymous5 months ago

      We are all ACA participants in the sense that we are all eligible for coverage even if we have pre-existing conditions. Not everyone gets their insurance through an exchange, but they are all protected under that law. The reason so many people have shifted their views is because they don’t want to go back to the pre-ACA rules when sick people could be dropped from coverage. Now, many Republicans are open to making changes, of course, but the ACA’s newfound popularity comes from the reality on the ground. Nobody wants to have their coverage yanked away, even they don’t think what we currently have is perfect.

    2. Anonymous5 months ago

      So you want a biased poll that doesn’t reflect reality. The point of these polls is to gauge public support across all demographics.

  12. Anonymous5 months ago

    A separate poll (with a more balanced political affiliation representation) also found the majority of Americans support the ACA with 48% approving v. 42% disapproving. Here is the link:
    Also, a Gallup poll in 2016 found that more Americans identified as Democrat that Republican (29% v. 26%). So that would explain the slight uptick in democrats taking the poll over republicans. However, the bigger question is why independents were so under represented, as that same Gallup poll found 40% of Americans identify as independent. So if the sample size truly reflected the overal U.S. population, independents should have far outnumbered democrats and republicans (with republicans representing the fewest). However, the underrepresentation of independents cannot be said to have screwed the results, as the 2016 Gallup poll found the percentage of independents that identified with democratic views and policies was equal to the percentage that identified republican-leaning (16%). That still leaves democrats and democratic views and policies representing 45% of the U.S. population v. 42% of the U.S. population supporting republican views and policies.
    So don’t get too excited about the polling sample and use that as an argument to feminism the results. They seem to be line with other polls and relatively representative of the overall population.

    1. Robert Jacobson5 months ago

      Including leaners, the most recent Gallup party affiliation has 44% Republican to 43% Democrat.

      Including leaners, this survey has 39% Republican and 53% Democrat. It is not credible.

  13. Anonymous5 months ago

    I wish the Survey asked about variables that can help explain the respondents’ opinions.

  14. Lorraine Ellis5 months ago

    Polls need to start offering a different set of options: Which do you prefer?

    1. Repeal the ACA with no replacement.
    2. Keep the ACA as is.
    3. Improve the ACA.
    4. Replace the ACA with a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system.

    I suspect that many people who say they don’t approve of the ACA would actually like to see it replaced with single-payer.

  15. Anonymous5 months ago

    Looking back at prior survey in April 2016 when the electorate viewed the health care law unfavorably (54% Disapprove, 44% Approve), the split of Democrat vs. Republican respondents was 32% / 28% (included 1909 total respondents…611 D, 536 R, 752 I…the Independents were also relatively evenly split at 333 Leans Dem / 339 Leans Rep).

    The respondents for this survey appear to have shifted well away from that relative balance…now there are no “Independents” included and the Democrat vs. Republican split is 58% / 42% (797 Dem/Leans Dem, 581 Rep/Leans Rep), despite the fact that Republicans just won the recent election! How can that be explained?!?

    We have seen how polls were skewed by oversampling certain groups to get an outcome that didn’t reflect reality…does the universal call for Clinton to win in 2016 ring a bell? Pew, how do you explain the swing? Does this reflect reality or does this reflect a desired outcome? After the lessons of the 2016 election, I am leaning toward the latter…

    1. Patrick Mayer5 months ago

      There was no skewing of the polls in the 2016 election. Go back and check what the Real Clear Politics polling average was the last week of the election and you will see that it showed a slight lead for Clinton. Her big leads in the polling averages were weeks prior to that (prior to the public re-opening of her email case). And she did win the national vote (which is what the national polls predict) by a small margin. The polling was fine in 2016. Its just that some people stopped paying attention to the polls in September, didn’t realize that Clinton collapsed in the polls in the last few weeks, and so they thought she was predicted to win huge.
      Put another way the RCP polling average was closer to the eventual outcome in 2016 than it was in 2012 (when the polling averages underestimated Obama’s eventual popular vote victory).

  16. Packard Day5 months ago

    Of those who now support the ACA (a.k.a Obamacare), most are strongly in favor of those particular parts of the legislation that provide free stuff from someone else. Irononically, far too many of these same people are also strongly opposed to the other parts of the law that might ever require them to personally pay with their own money. And that my friends, is the dilemma of our age.______It is also the foundation for a classic “big store confidence game.” It is a game in which the soon to be “trimmed marks” are all promised something really valuable that will be paid (wink, wink, wink) by someone else. In the end, it is the gullible marks who always get trimmed in such games.

    1. Anonymous5 months ago

      You nailed it.

  17. Anonymous5 months ago

    When I examine the Survey Methodology in the link provided, I see that the sample includes 581 Republicans, 797 Democrats, and 125 Independent. Can anyone provide an explanation or clarity as to why Democrats make up 53% of survey respondents while Republicans only make up 38.7%. It seems fairly unsurprising to me that surveying a group of mostly Democrats would produce a result favoring Democrat policies. Does this sample proportion match the country population proportions?

    1. Hypocritical Sandwich5 months ago

      It is a random sample.

  18. Anonymous5 months ago

    A fine survey,perhaps? How many of the people being polled in fact are using the ACA for their insurance.Your survey indicates wide support among young people but according to insurers on the exchanges they are the group not buying insurance.

  19. Anonymous5 months ago

    So, basically the major part of the sample identifies as democrat.

    1. Anonymous5 months ago

      So, another randomly chosen sample might have more republicans and independents.