PRINCETON, NJ -- More than half of Americans (55%) in February who were uninsured said they would buy insurance rather than pay a fine, similar to January's results, but down from as high as 63% last fall.
These data are based on Gallup's ongoing tracking of uninsured Americans' attitudes toward and experiences with the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as "Obamacare," including interviews with 1,507 uninsured adults in February.
The pool of uninsured Americans is continually changing, and has decreased as a percentage of the adult population since the beginning of the year. Thus, as some Americans who were previously uninsured move into the insured pool, the uninsured who are left are those who have shown the most reluctance in the short term to get insurance. This helps explain why the percentage of uninsured Americans who say they intend to buy insurance has dropped in the most recent months.
At the same time, overall American attitudes toward the ACA remain negative, which may suggest that some uninsured Americans' reluctance to get insurance reflects their dislike of the ACA and the law's requirements. Other uninsured Americans may simply have become more hardened over time in their negative attitudes toward the prospect of getting insurance.
Still, the possibility that more than half of Americans who remain uninsured say they will ultimately purchase health insurance offers some positive news for supporters of Obamacare. It also suggests that the number of uninsured Americans may continue to decline as the March 31 deadline approaches, after which they will have to pay a fine if they don't have insurance.
More Uninsured Now Say They Will Use the Exchanges
More than half of the uninsured who plan to get insurance say they will get it from an exchange, a percentage that has been higher this year than in the last three months of 2013.
Still, the news on the exchange front is not all positive. Uninsured Americans who have visited an exchange remain about twice as likely to rate their experience negatively as positively, similar to their ratings last fall. Some individuals who had positive experiences with the exchanges in past months likely got insurance, and therefore are no longer included in the uninsured pool in Gallup's ongoing tracking. Still, the fact that only a third of the uninsured in February who visited the exchanges had a positive experience suggests that significant problems remain -- despite the Obama administration's massive effort to fix issues with the federal exchange website.
More than half of uninsured Americans in February said they plan to get health insurance rather than pay a fine -- an encouraging number for supporters of the Affordable Care Act. Still, this percentage is down modestly from last fall and leaves a nontrivial percentage of Americans without insurance.
The majority of those who plan to get insurance say they will do it through a state or federal health insurance exchange, although to date, the uninsured evaluate the experiences they have had with the exchanges quite negatively. Exchange activity may pick up in the coming weeks as the government's March 31 deadline for having insurance approaches. Once that deadline passes, it may be clearer how much progress the Obama administration's efforts to expand health insurance have made.
Results for the February Gallup poll average are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 1-28, 2014, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,507 adults who do not have health insurance, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of uninsured national adults interviewed in February, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Sample sizes for October's through January's monthly averages vary between 1,482 and 1,750 interviews with uninsured adults. For results based on each month's total sample of uninsured national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.