Next Story

Democrats call move to roll back ban on earmarks ‘cynical’

Ryan mostly correct that Obamacare is not popular with voters


From Donald Trump to Paul Ryan to Ron Johnson, “repeal and replace” has been the mantra of national Republicans almost since Obamacare became law in 2010.

With Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in the White House, of course, the Affordable Care Act wasn’t going anywhere.

But now, with the GOP not only in control of Congress but having won the presidency, Obamacare is in jeopardy — even if repeal isn’t necessarily easy and the replacement not entirely clear.

During the campaign, Trump pledged to ask Congress to repeal the law the first day he takes office in January 2017. But in recent days, he has indicated a willingness to perhaps amend the law, rather than repeal and replace it.

So, where does the rest of the country stand on Obamacare?

On Nov. 9, 2016, the day after Trump defeated Clinton and Ryan and Johnson were re-elected, Ryan held a news conference in his hometown of Janesville, Wis. Asked about repealing and replacing, the House speaker reaffirmed that that is his aim, and he made this declaration:

“This health care law is not a popular law.”

Is he right?

For the most part, yes. When Americans are asked about the Affordable Care Act, more generally disapprove than approve of it. That’s true in the latest polling and in surveys done throughout 2016.

But there is more to consider in the numbers.

To back Ryan’s claim, his office cited a Politico/Harvard poll of likely voters from late-September 2016. We found two more-recent polls, conducted in late-October 2016 of registered voters, that found similar results.

Politico/Harvard poll

How well is the Affordable Care Act working?

Very poorly/Somewhat poorly: 54%

Very well/Somewhat well: 43%

New York Times/CBS News poll

Approve/disapprove of the 2010 health care law?

Disapprove: 54%

Approve: 39%

Pew Research Center poll:

Approve/disapprove of the 2010 health care law?

Disapprove: 53%

Approve: 45%

Averaging the 16 national polls taken throughout 2016 that have asked about Obamacare produces similar results, according to Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette University Law School poll: 47 percent said they have an unfavorable opinion or disapprove of it, while 41 percent said favorable or approve.

So, it’s fair to say that if the question is about Obamacare overall, more Americans have a negative view than a positive one.

At the same time, it’s not clear that Americans want repeal. When Pew asked what Congress should do with the law, 51 percent said expand (40 percent) the law or leave it as is (11 percent), while 45 percent said repeal it.

And the picture changes a bit if you go deeper, particularly with polls done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a research center widely seen as a source of objective data that has surveyed on Obamacare since 2010.

In Kaiser’s mid-October 2016 poll, 45 percent of adults said they had a favorable opinion and 45 percent said unfavorable.

“Everything that you hear from the public about the ACA is seen through a partisan lens,” said Mollyann Brodie, Kaiser’s head public opinion and survey research, referring to Kaiser’s seven years worth of polling on the law.

Indeed, the poll found that 76 percent of Democrats had a favorable opinion of the law and 83 percent of Republicans had an unfavorable view.

It’s worth noting, though, that like the Pew poll, there was some sign of popularity when respondents were asked by Kaiser what the next president and Congress should do with the law: 49 percent said expand it or implement it as is, compared to 41 percent who said repeal it or scale it back.

(That’s not a new sentiment. In April 2014, PolitiFact National gave a Mostly True to this claim: “One thing that is much more unpopular than the Affordable Care Act is repealing the Affordable Care Act.”)

Two more Kaiser questions were not clear one way or the other, in terms of the law’s popularity:

Are you and your family better off as a result of the law? The most popular answer — 50 percent — was that the law has not made much of a difference to them.

Is the country as a whole better off? This was a tie — 39 percent said better off, 39 percent said worse off.

A final point before we close: Some parts of the law get high ratings, although the data isn’t as recent on this.

Kaiser’s December 2014 poll asked about five features of the law and three were rated as very or somewhat favorable by 75 percent or more of the respondents: The exchanges, where people who don’t get employer-provided coverage can shop for insurance; financial aid to help lower-income people not covered by employers to buy insurance; the option for states to expand Medicaid to cover more people. (Sixty-four percent had a very or somewhat unfavorable view of the requirement to have insurance or pay a fine.)

Our ruling

Ryan said: Obamacare “is not a popular law.”

A majority in two national polls done in late-October 2016 say they have an unfavorable opinion of the Affordable Care Act. Those findings track polls taken throughout 2016 — unfavorable or disapprove leads favorable or approve. Similarly, the majority in a September 2016 poll say the law is working somewhat or very poorly.

But it’s worth noting that in one October 2016 poll, favorable and unfavorable tied. And in two polls, expanding or keeping the law as-is was favored by more people than repealing it or scaling it back.

Overall, Ryan’s statement is accurate, but needs more information.

We rate it Mostly True.

For the full fact-check with all sourcing, please see www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2016/nov/17/paul-ryan/donald-trump-and-paul-ryan-threatening-repeal-and-/


Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Georgia Politics

Georgia resets rules on voter challenges after a town got it wrong
Georgia resets rules on voter challenges after a town got it wrong

A recent string of problems over how local officials challenged the registration of Georgia voters can be summed up in the curt, one-page letter that arrived mid-July at Jennifer Hill’s home near Savannah. Even though she had lived there for three years, the tiny town of Thunderbolt wanted Hill to prove her residency because her name did...
Lawmakers begin talks about how to replace Georgia’s aging vote system
Lawmakers begin talks about how to replace Georgia’s aging vote system

A handful of lawmakers began the discussion Friday about what it might take to move Georgia to a new election system, an important but incremental step toward replacing the state’s aging voting machines. The meeting of the state House Science and Technology Committee represents a start. Any decision will likely take a few years and, depending...
Graham-Cassidy obscures deadlines for other key actions on health care
Graham-Cassidy obscures deadlines for other key actions on health care

Nearly one hundred and fifty million dollars to keep Georgia hospitals’ indigent care afloat. Funding for the PeachCare program that along with Medicaid covers about half of Georgia’s kids. Clear answers on Obamacare subsidies that Blue Cross said it needed to keep selling individual plans in metro Atlanta. Those are some things that Congress...
Georgia ethics panel to begin auditing candidates in governor’s race
Georgia ethics panel to begin auditing candidates in governor’s race

After years of mainly investigating issues raised by Georgians, the state’s ethics watchdog agency plans to aggressively audit campaign filings from all the major statewide races coming up. Stefan Ritter, the executive secretary of the ethics commission, said that while some details still have to be worked out, the agency will be auditing the...
From the Right, the advice for Trump is to try diplomacy
From the Right, the advice for Trump is to try diplomacy

A roundup of editorials Friday looks at the idea that kicking North Korea out of the UN would go a long way toward helping the current situation, and that having President Donald Trump negotiate instead of threaten would be the best move to make.  Here are some opinions from the Right. From The Wall Street Journal: If the world community is serious...
More Stories