NBC News did an experiment in 2014, four years after Obamacare was enacted. They polled half of their sample of Kentucky voters about what they thought of “Obamacare”, and asked the other half about “Kynect”, the Kentucky implementation of Obamacare. The result, 22% of those asked about Kynect regarded it unfavorably whereas 57% of those who were asked about Obamacare viewed it unfavorably. So registered Kentucky voters liked what Kentucky’s version of Obamacare was doing, but disliked the national program.
This bias could partly be due to our national problem with partisanism clouding our judgements about reality. Similar experiments have found that Americans like the Affordable Care Act a lot better than they like Obamacare even though both are names for the same thing.
A 2015 poll found that 25% of Republicans were favorable towards Obamacare whereas 75% of Democrats were favorable.
However, that is certainly a partisan bias in both parties that is causing this difference. Enrollees in Obamacare are fairly evenly split between Republicans and Democrats and the enrollees are the people who are most directly affected. They overwhelmingly like the insurance they are getting through Obamacare. However Democrats say they like Obamacare more than people who actually have it like it and Republicans say they like Obamacare much less than people who actually have it:
So people like Obamacare a lot more if it isn’t called Obamacare and the people who have it like it about as well as people with private employer-based insurance.
Similarly, if you ask Americans about whether they approve of the main things Obamacare does, they like nearly everything in the bill. Here is a Kaiser tracking poll from the end of 2016 with the graphic modified by Kevin Drum. Every part of Obamacare was very popular except the individual mandate:
An August 2018 Kaiser tracking poll confirms that Americans overwhelmingly want to protect health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions:
Kevin Drum comments about it:
A full 90 percent want to keep the Obamacare provision that protects those with pre-existing conditions. 90 percent! You can barely get a number that high for approval of a congressional Mother’s Day resolution. And yet, the approval rate of Obamacare itself remains….meh… Among Republicans, 58 percent think it’s important to retain Obamacare protections for pre-existing conditions. However, only 15 percent have a favorable view of the law that provides those protections in the first place. [That] means that at least 43 percent of Republicans want to get rid of Obamacare but keep Obamacare’s protections for pre-existing conditions.
Meanwhile, as Obamacare ages, public opinion has been slowly warming to it:
The main goals of Obamacare was to help Americans get better healthcare and increase insurance coverage. These were and are extremely popular goals among Republicans and Democrats alike. Obamacare is mostly criticized in both parties for not achieving this goal well enough and it is a small program that didn’t change much compared to the implementation of Medicaid and Medicaid in 1966. Both of those programs are overwhelmingly popular among Democrats and Republicans alike. Below are the 2018 Kaiser statistics for Medicaid and they didn’t show the popularity of Medicare, but it has consistently been even more popular than Medicaid shown here.
So there is some common ground about these healthcare goals and Obamacare did increase coverage and the people who have it generally like it. That is why it is getting more popular.
I expect that total repeal of Obamacare is politically impossible when 90% of Americans support some of its core parts, but if Washington actually did totally repeal Obamacare and try to take America back again to the way the health insurance system was structured before 2010, Obamacare would suddenly become even more popular.