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More Americans Negative Than Positive About ACA

More Americans Negative Than Positive About ACA

by Art Swift
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 51% disapprove of ACA; 44% approve
  • 18% say the law has helped their families; 29% say it has hurt them
  • Long term, most Americans say law will hurt or not make much difference

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a summer that saw many insurers drop out of the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges, Americans' support for the healthcare law continues to be slightly more negative than positive. Now, 44% of Americans support the law, also known as Obamacare, and 51% disapprove of it -- similar to what Gallup measured last November.

Trend: Do you generally approve or disapprove of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Obama that restructured the U.S. healthcare system?

Insurance giant Aetna decided in August to pull out of most of the healthcare exchanges it had entered in 2014 and announced it would not expand into any more states. This news followed similar announcements from other major insurers such as United Healthcare and Humana. There have also been reports that the cost of individual plans offered through health insurance exchanges in many states is likely to jump significantly in the coming years as federal subsidies disappear. Since the spring, the percentage who approve of the law has declined slightly from 47% to 44%, while disapproval has risen two percentage points to 51%.

Percentage of Americans Saying ACA Hurt Their Family Rises to New High

Currently, 29% of Americans say Obamacare has hurt them and their family, up from 26% in May, and the highest Gallup has measured to date. Meanwhile, the percentage who say the ACA has helped their family dropped from 22% to 18%. The bulk of Americans, 51%, continue to say the law has "had no effect." As more provisions of the law have taken effect over the years, the "no effect" percentage has dropped from the first reading of 70%, in early 2012.

Trend: The Affordable Care Act's Effect on Families

Because Republicans are much more likely (46%) than Democrats (9%) to say the new law has hurt their family, it is possible that some of those who say "hurt" are giving a political response rather than an actual report on the law's effect on their lives.

The number of uninsured Americans has declined under Obamacare, a positive outcome of the law. But the actions of Aetna and other insurers raise doubts about whether the law is sustainable financially, not only for private insurance companies but also for the federal and state governments that help shoulder the costs, and whether insurance will be affordable for Americans themselves.

Americans Divided on Long-Term Effects

More Americans expect the ACA to make their family's healthcare situation worse in the long run (36%) than say it will make it better (24%). Thirty-seven percent say they expect the law not to make much difference. The current percentage who believe the law will make things better reflects no change since Gallup began asking this question in 2012.

Trend: Americans' Views of the ACA's Ability to Improve Their Family's Healthcare Situation

Gallup also asked Americans about the law's effect on the U.S. so far. Thirty-seven percent say the law has helped the healthcare situation in the U.S., while 45% say it has hurt it. A much smaller percentage (12%) say it has had no effect.

Bottom Line

Six years after passage of the ACA, it appears that much of the American public hasn't embraced the healthcare law and still holds serious reservations about it. Although opinion has fluctuated somewhat over time, Americans have remained at least slightly more negative than positive about the law for three years. This partly reflects the highly politicized views of the controversial law -- with Republicans overwhelmingly opposed to it and unlikely to change their views, while Democrats have shown consistently high support.

At the same time, more Americans than at any previous point are reporting that the law has hurt their healthcare situation. The percentage who believe their family will be hurt in the long run by Obamacare is up slightly since May. It is possible that these feelings are related to negative media attention to the law this summer; that the lack of positive news has returned sentiments to previous levels; or that they simply reflect underlying political predispositions to the law. In any case, President Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement still has miles to go before a majority of the public considers it a positive. With Hillary Clinton vowing to strengthen Obamacare, and Donald Trump pledging to undo it, the healthcare law's future hangs in the balance this election season.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 30-31, 2016, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,015 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 ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.

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