Rolling out additional data from a new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection poll, Ron Brownstein gets to the question at the very heart of the dispute over the Affordable Care Act–and ultimately over much of the social safety net conservatives are trying to dismantle: who benefits?
Amid all of the turmoil surrounding the law, solid majorities of Americans continue to say they believe it will “make things better” for people who do not have health insurance (63 percent) and the poor (59 percent). Only about one-third thought the law would “make things … worse” for each group. In each case, that’s a slight improvement in the overall judgment since the July poll. Back then, 58 percent thought the law would help the uninsured and 55 percent believed it would benefit the poor.
These results reflect a broad consensus. In the new survey, solid majorities of Democrats, independents, nonwhites, and both college-educated and noncollege whites say the law will help the uninsured; majorities of each of those groups except whites without college degrees also say it will help the poor (and even a 49 percent plurality of those noncollege whites agree). Republicans were more dubious, but even so, 47 percent thought the law would help the uninsured and 42 percent believed it would benefit the poor.
These results are a mixed blessing for the law’s supporters, though, because the poll also finds that most Americans, especially whites, are much more dubious that the law will benefit broader groups in the country, or their own families. That confounds the anticipation of Democratic strategists who have hoped for decades that health care reform could reverse the skepticism among many voters, particularly middle-class whites, that Washington can deliver tangible benefits in their own lives.
By asking if Obamacare would make things better or worse for this or that category of Americans, with no third option, the poll probably lumps together non-poor insured white folks who simply think the law has little to do with them and those who think the benefits to the poor, minorities, and the uninsured comes out of their own hides. But the finding that white people over 50 think the initiative will make things worse for seniors by a 2-1 margin indicates that the highly mendacious GOP campaign to treat Obamacare benefits as taken right out of Medicare benefits has worked to a sinister extent.
Many single-payer fans will look at public opinion surveys like this and argue that only universal programs like Medicare can ever enjoy stable public support. Politics aside, I’m not sure what is worse: people opposing Obamacare because they’ve been wrongly convinced it will worsen their own situation, or people opposing Obamacare because they resent the help it will provide those people.