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Few Americans Say Healthcare Law Has Helped Them

Few Americans Say Healthcare Law Has Helped Them

Those with new insurance policies in 2014 more likely to have positive views

PRINCETON, NJ -- About one month after the new healthcare exchanges closed with over 8 million new enrollees, there has been little substantial change in Americans' perception that the healthcare law has helped them. Most Americans say the law has had no impact on their healthcare situation, while those who do perceive an effect are more likely to say it has hurt them rather than helped them.

Healthcare Law's Perceived Impact on Americans and Their Families

These data are based on interviews with over 2,500 Americans in a May 21-25 Gallup poll.

The majority of Americans have reported that the Affordable Care Act has had little effect on their personal situations since Gallup first asked this question in early 2012. In more recent months, after the exchange-based enrollment opened up, Americans have gradually become more likely to indicate that the law has had an effect -- both positive and negative. The current 24% who say the law has hurt them is by one percentage point the highest measured, while the 14% who say the law has helped them is also within one point of being the highest measured on that dimension. In all instances, across seven different surveys, Americans have been at least marginally more likely to say the law has hurt them and their families than to say it has helped them.

Americans' views on how the healthcare law has affected them personally are predictably partisan, as are almost all attitudes about Obamacare. The biggest partisan effect is evident among Republicans, with 41% claiming that the law has hurt them and their family. Democrats have opposite views, although more subdued, with 23% saying that the law has helped them, while over two-thirds say it has had no effect.

Effect of Healthcare Law on Americans and Their Families, by Political Party

The goal of the law was to provide an insurance policy to the uninsured, particularly young, low-income, and minority Americans. There is, however, little difference in the perceived benefit of the law among those aged 18 to 64. But, those younger than 30 are more likely than those who are older to say the law has both helped and hurt them.

Americans living in households with very low incomes (less than $24,000 a year) are slightly more likely than those with higher incomes to say that the law has helped them, and slightly less likely to say that it has hurt them. Still, as many of this low-income group say the law has hurt them as say it has helped them.

Effect of Healthcare Law on Americans and Their Families, by Income Level

Americans who say they obtained a new insurance policy in 2014 are significantly more likely than those who are insured but with the same policy as last year to say the new law has helped them, at 27% to 11%, respectively. Some of those who bought new policies this year did so because of mechanisms in the law, which others did so as a result of other factors, such as changing jobs. The number of Americans interviewed in this survey who have a new policy this year but were uninsured last year are more likely than average to say they have benefitted from the law, although their representation in the sample is quite small, making precise estimates of their attitudes difficult.

Effect of Healthcare Law on Americans and Their Families, by Insurance Status

Americans who are currently uninsured by definition did not take advantage of the exchanges to get insurance, and, at this point, they are substantially more likely to say the new law has hurt them rather than helped them.

More Negative Than Positive Views About Long-Term Effect of Healthcare Law

Americans continue to be more pessimistic than optimistic when asked to ponder the effect of the healthcare law on their family's healthcare situation "in the long run." About four in 10 say it will make no difference in the long run, while slightly fewer say that it will make their situation worse. Americans are least likely to say it will make their situation better in the long run (22%). The percentage who say their healthcare situation will be made worse in the long run is lower than it was last fall -- amind the botched opening of the healthcare exchanges.

Long-Term Effect of Healthcare Law on Americans' Healthcare Situations

Bottom Line

As of yet, there is no sign that Americans think the new healthcare law is having a net positive effect on their healthcare situations. The majority say the law has not affected them, while those who do report it having an effect are more likely to say it has hurt their healthcare situation rather than helped it. Americans also remain more negative than positive when asked about their views of the potential impact of the law on their family's healthcare situation in the long run.

That so few believe the healthcare law has had a positive impact on their lives could mean most Americans would not be upset if lawmakers change the law. Democrats running for office this year appear to be adopting a "keep and improve" position that acknowledges that the law needs changes. The Republican House announced Wednesday that it plans to put forward its own healthcare plan for a vote this year that would radically change how the healthcare system works. This proposal almost certainly has little chance of becoming law this year, and it is far from clear if the proposed plan would be any more popular than Obamacare. But given the widespread perception that Obamacare has not benefitted Americans so far, politicians on both sides of the aisle would appear to have little to lose by advocating changes to some elements of the law.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 21-25, 2014, with a random sample of 2,538 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of 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.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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