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Friday, 20 September 2013

Washington Post/ABC News Poll Examines Government-Shutdown Aspect of Obamacare Implementation

A few days ago, I wrote about a Pew Research Center/USA Today poll that attempted to gauge the intensity with which opponents of the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") truly detest the new law. Respondents were first asked if they supported or opposed the ACA, and then opponents were asked the follow-up question of whether they thought political leaders who opposed the law should try to make it work as effectively or possible or make the law fail. Only about a quarter of the sample opposed the law and said they wanted political leaders to try to make the law fail.

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll likewise tries to assess intensity of opposition to the ACA, but this time in a different way. With the possibility looming of a federal government shutdown due to disagreement between the Republican-majority House and the Democratic-majority Senate on how to fund government operations beyond October 1, the Post/ABC poll asked ACA opponents the following question:

Would you support or oppose Congress shutting down major activities of the federal government in order to try to prevent implementation of the health care law?

Presumably, if someone advocates closing down "major" federal government activities -- would which could include no new patients being admitted to some National Institutes of Health medical studies, some veterans' services being unavailable, and delays on processing passport applications -- as a way of blocking Obamacare, he or she must really dislike the law. So how many people want to use a government shutdown to delay, disrupt, or diminish the October 1 opening of the ACA exchanges (marketplaces) for people to sign up? Again, it's about one quarter of them. Overall, respondents to the Post/ABC poll break down as follows:
  • Forty-two percent of respondents support the ACA.
  • Twenty-seven percent oppose the law and want a federal government shutdown to enforce that opposition (i.e., the shutdown is supported by 52% of the 52% who opposed the law).
  • Twenty percent oppose the law, but don't want a shutdown.
  • Five percent oppose the law and are undecided on a shutdown.
  • Six percent had no opinion about the law in the first place.

Another salient theme of the Post/ABC survey is the pervasiveness of respondents' self-claimed lack of knowledge about what is in the law. When asked, "Do you feel that you personally do or do not have the information you need to understand what changes will occur as the new health care law takes effect?," only 35% said yes and 62% said no, with the rest undecided. One might expect a positive correlation between education and feeling informed, but such was not the case. The percentages of those feeling informed were virtually identical among participants with a high school or less education (34%), some college (35%), a completed college degree (38%), and postgraduate education (37%).

Another poll, by Rasmussen, finds stronger support than does the Post/ABC survey for shutting down the government in connection with the ACA: "51% of voters favor having a partial government shutdown until Democrats and Republicans agree on what spending for the health care law to cut." Note that Rasmussen's question-wording arguably softens the impact of the scenario, relative to the Post/ABC wording, in two ways: Rasmussen describes the shutdown as "partial" rather than "major," and asks about cutting spending on the health care law rather than preventing its implementation.


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