At first glance, today’s poll from the Washington Post and ABC News is total vindication for Republicans who urge total rejection of the Affordable Care Act. In addition to the 57 percent who oppose the law—up eight points from last month—63 percent of Americans disapprove of Obama’s handling of the implementation.
I’ll be the first to say that we should look to the economy as the driving force in the president’s standing. Still, it’s important not to under-emphasize the impact of the disastrous health care rollout. In particular, it explains Obama’s poor ratings on everything from managerial competence—only 41 percent say he’s a good manager—to his declining trustworthiness: 50 percent of Americans say the president is dishonest and untrustworthy. Indeed, Americans are so dissatisfied with Obama that 49 percent would vote for Mitt Romney—as opposed to 45 percent for the president—if they could replay last year’s election.
Then again, Republicans will be disappointed to learn that—for all of its disdain—the public isn’t interested in repealing the Affordable Care Act. According to the latest survey from National Journal and United Technologies, only 38 percent want Congress to repeal Obamacare. And overall, the only groups that want repeal are Republicans (74 percent want to get rid of the law) and non-college whites (53 percent). The majority of Americans—from college-educated whites and independents to young people and minorities—want to maintain the status quo or increase funding for implementation.
What’s more, if we go back to the Washington Post survey, we’ll see that the contours of public opinion haven’t changed that much. Yes, Obama’s job approval rating has dropped to 42 percent. But most of that decline has happened in the South and Midwest, where his popularity has always waned. In the Northeast and on the West Coast, his approval has held steady. Likewise, the South continues to drive disapproval of the Affordable Care Act, with just 32 percent in favor of the law.
Overall, the dynamic is straightforward: The Obama coalition of minorities, women, and college-educated whites supports the president and his health care law, while the GOP coalition of Southerners, Midwesterners, and non-college educated whites is opposed.
One thing worth noting, in all of this, is the public’s view on the fate of the Affordable Care Act. Forty-nine percent of Americans say the “federal government can recover from its problems implementing the new health care law and get it working successfully.” An equal number disagree. The GOP might see Obamacare as hopelessly unworkable and doomed to failure, but the public disagrees, and will likely credit the administration if it can repair the website and bring it up to snuff. Moreover, early evidence suggests that the exchanges can work: In states that embraced the law—like Kentucky and California—enrollment is on schedule.
Republicans have the advantage right now, but—barring the complete collapse of Obamacare—it’s not going to last. Voters will move on from their disappointment with the administration, and when they do, the GOP will have to stand on its own agenda. Which, at the moment, it doesn’t have.