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Poll Shows Record Obamacare Support, But That Doesn’t Mean Much

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday found that support for the Affordable Care Act hit a record high for the survey: 49 percent. But the result isn’t particularly newsworthy. Why?

The ABC News/Washington Post poll has tended to show higher support for Obamacare than other polls. The question wording may be playing a role. The poll asked, “Do you support or oppose the federal law making changes to the health care system?” It’s a more ill-defined question than those typically asked by other pollsters. Respondents are not informed that the health law was signed by President Obama, nor are they told what year the law was passed (I’m not criticizing the question wording, which might elicit a better picture of health care views divorced from views of Obama).

Meanwhile, the law’s 49 percent support in the most recent survey is up just 3 percentage points from the last time the question was asked by ABC News/Washington Post two months ago. That’s not close to being statistically significant. Opposition fell from 49 percent to 48 percent. Again, that isn’t statistically significant.

Other pollsters who have conducted surveys since the start of March — including surveys from last week by CBS News/The New York Times and Fox News — have shown a very slight improvement in approval of the health law. These polls tell respondents the law was passed in 2010.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 12.03.07 PM has recently been more user-friendly, especially compared with its disastrous rollout. And it’s possible that as people obtain health insurance, support for the law will build.

But we haven’t seen much of that yet. The average increase in support for Obamacare in the four most recent polls — excluding the ABC News/Washington Post poll — was 1.6 percentage points. That’s an increase, but it isn’t a major one. Support has been steady at about 40 percent over the past few years. While the majority of adults don’t want the law to be repealed, more people continue to oppose Obamacare than support it.


Harry Enten was a senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight.