Popular support for repeal still hiding well

POPULAR SUPPORT FOR REPEAL STILL HIDING WELL…. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) on Thursday called the Affordable Care Act the “crown jewel of socialism,” which, even for her, is idiotic. More importantly, though, she said, “The American people have said overwhelmingly that they want this bill repealed.” In fact, Bachmann believes opposition to the law is getting stronger as time goes on.

This isn’t uncommon. Republicans appear convinced that their crusade against the reform law — it stopped being a “bill” last March, Michele — enjoys overwhelming public support.

The evidence to the contrary is hard to miss. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll found that just 18% of the country supports the GOP plan to repeal the entirety of the law. Greg Sargent gave the latest New York Times/CBS News poll a close look, and found even more striking results.

The NYT/CBS poll then asked the pro-repeal camp whether they want to “repeal all of the health care law, or only certain parts of it.” Suddenly the number who favor full repeal drops to 20 percent — one-fifth — while 18 percent peel off and say they want to repeal “certain parts.”

It gets even better. The poll then asked people who support repeal an open-ended question: Which parts of the law do you want done away with? The number who said “everything” drops again, this time to eight percent. Eleven percent want the individual mandate repealed. But guess what? The number who called for repeal of other key individual items in the bill — the pre-existing conditions piece; the coverage for people up to age 26; and so on — was consistently one percent or less for each of them.

Now, some will say this proves nothing: People don’t know what’s in the bill, so they can’t say what they want repealed. But this is exactly the point. Fine-grained polling reveals that people who say they want repeal may be expressing generalized frustration about the bill, or dislike of certain parts, such as the individual mandate, rather than a desire to see it blown to smithereens.

My point here is not to suggest the Democrats’ health care reform package is popular. It’s not. We can explore why — Americans don’t know what’s in it; Dems did a pretty awful job selling it; the right-wing propaganda campaign has been effective; etc. — but the fact remains that while the law enjoys stronger support than it did last year, the gains have been fairly small. The ACA remains a contentious national issue.

But by most measures, the most detailed polling suggests the Republican plan to eliminate the entirety of the law enjoys far less support than the law itself. There are quite a few very popular measures in the Affordable Care Act, and for the GOP to assume that Americans want policymakers to eliminate them is folly.

Bachmann and her ilk don’t have to agree with these attitudes, but when they pretend the attitudes don’t exist, sensible people should know not to take them seriously.