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After Supreme Court Decision, Health Care Reform Law Continues to be a Drag on the Obama Campaign; Battleground States a Dead Heat Posted on July 19, 2012 | Polling Analysis



Resurgent Republic's latest national survey, conducted July 9-12, 2012, demonstrates that, in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision upholding the constitutionality of the health care reform law, President Obama's signature domestic achievement continues to be a drag on his chances for reelection, and the presidential election remains a dead heat, both nationally and in battleground states.


A portion of the survey, including the message arguments for and against the health care law, was conducted for NPR in conjunction with Democracy Corps. The survey polled 1000 likely voters nationally, including an oversample to reach a total of 462 voters in twelve battleground states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The sample contains seven percentage points more Democrats than Republicans, 36 percent Democrat and 29 percent Republican. With full results available at www.resurgentrepublic.com, the following are key highlights:

The Presidential Race

The presidential contest between President Obama and Governor Romney continues to be a statistical dead heat, both overall and in battleground states.

  1. Among voters overall, President Obama stands at 47 percent and Governor Romney at 45 percent. Since our May survey, Romney has solidified his Republican base, moving from 84 percent support to 93 percent. Republicans support Romney at a slightly higher margin (93 to 4 percent) than Democrats support Obama (90 to 8 percent).
  2. Romney has a five-point lead among Independents. Among the Independent voters who will decide the contest, Romney leads 45 to 40 percent, and his support with swing voters is in line with our May survey.
  3. The race is tied in the twelve battleground states. The contest stands at 46 to 46 percent in the battleground states.
  4. A majority of Independents and battleground-state voters thinks it is time for someone else to be president. Among Independents, 37 percent think President Obama deserves reelection and 55 percent think it is time for someone else. In battleground states, 44 percent think Obama deserves reelection and 52 percent think it is time for someone else.
  5. Republicans are significantly more enthusiastic about voting in the presidential election than either Democrats or Independents. On a scale of one to ten, with one being not at all enthusiastic and ten being "extremely enthusiastic," 62 percent of Republicans rate themselves a "ten," compared to 49 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of Independents.
  6. The difference between Barack Obama's favorable rating and his job approval has evaporated. For a long time Obama's favorable rating stood significantly higher than his job approval, indicating a presumed personal likeability greater than his job performance. But this survey indicates that this advantage has almost entirely disappeared. Obama's favorable-to-unfavorable rating of 50 to 46 percent matches almost exactly his job approval of 49 to 46 percent.
  7. Independents rate Obama and Romney almost identically, while Obama's standing in the battleground states is the mirror opposite of his national image. Independents give Obama a favorable-to-unfavorable rating of 44 to 50 percent (minus 6 points), and rate Romney at 42 to 48 percent (minus 6 points). Battleground-state voters rate Obama at 46 to 51 percent (minus 5 points), calling into question whether President Obama's national likeability translates into an advantage in the states that will decide November's election. Romney’s favorable-to-unfavorable rating stands at 43 to 51 percent (minus 8 points).

President Obama's Job Performance

Voters approve of the president's job performance overall by a narrow margin, but disapprove of his performance on the number one issue, the economy.

  1. Voters narrowly approve of President Obama's job performance by 49 to 46 percent. Republicans and Democrats reflect mirror images – Republicans disapprove 91 to 9 percent, while Democrats approve 88 to 9 percent.
  2. Independents disapprove of Obama's job performance, while battleground-state voters split evenly. Only 43 percent of Independents approve of the president's job performance, while 50 percent disapprove. Battleground-state voters split at 48 percent approve and 49 percent disapprove.
  3. A majority of voters disapproves of President Obama's job performance on the economy. Voters disapprove of Obama's economic job performance by 51 to 48 percent, including 91 to 8 percent among Republicans, 56 to 41 percent among Independents, and 52 to 45 percent among battleground-state voters. Democrats approve of the president's economic job performance by 86 to 13 percent.
  4. By a narrow margin, voters overall, as well as Independents and battleground-state voters, think President Obama's policies have made the economy worse. Overall 39 percent of voters think his policies have made the economy worse, 36 percent think they have made it better, and 21 percent think his policies have had no effect on the economy. Independents think Obama's policies have made the economy worse rather than better by 36 to 31 percent, as do battleground-state voters by 41 to 37 percent.

The Supreme Court's Decision on Health Care Reform

The Supreme Court's decision upholding the constitutionality of the health care reform law has had a marginally positive effect on voter attitudes about the law, but more voters still oppose it than support it, and they now think President Obama broke his pledge not to raise taxes.

  1. Voters split right down the middle on whether they approve or disapprove of the Supreme Court's decision upholding the constitutionality of the health care reform law. Forty-seven percent approve and 46 percent disapprove. Republicans overwhelmingly disapprove by 82 to 12 percent, while Democrats overwhelmingly approve, 79 to 14 percent. Independents and battleground-state voters disapprove, 48 to 44 percent and 49 to 42 percent, respectively.
  2. The vast majority of voters says the Supreme Court's decision has no effect on their view of the health care reform law, but by a narrow margin the decision makes voters more likely rather than less likely to support it. Fifty-eight percent say the Court's decision has no effect on their view of the law. Twenty-one percent say they are more likely to support the law because of the Court's decision, while 16 percent say they are less likely.
  3. Even with the Supreme Court's decision, more voters still oppose than support the health care reform law. Forty-three percent of all voters support the law, and 48 percent oppose it. Republicans oppose it at a higher level (87 to 8 percent) than Democrats support it (77 to 13 percent).
  4. A majority of Independents and battleground-state voters still opposes the law. Independents oppose it by 50 to 37 percent, as do battleground-state voters by 52 to 39 percent.
  5. As a result of the Supreme Court's declaration that the penalty for failure to buy health insurance is a tax, a majority of Independents and battleground-state voters thinks President Obama broke his pledge not to raise taxes on families making less than $250,000 per year. Voters overall now think he broke his pledge by 49 to 43 percent, including 51 to 41 percent among Independents and 51 to 42 percent among battleground-state voters.
  6. The Supreme Court's decision has caused its favorability to take a hit among Republicans, but its favorable rating stands higher than its unfavorable rating among all three partisan groups. Overall the Supreme Court's favorable-to-unfavorable rating is 54 to 31 percent, including 47 to 42 percent among Republicans, 51 to 33 percent among Independents, 62 to 22 percent among Democrats, and 49 to 33 percent among battleground-state voters.

Attitudes about the Health Care Reform Law

Despite the Supreme Court's decision and three years of selling the measure, the health care law remains a drag on Obama's candidacy. Voters do not believe the law addresses their top health care priority, controlling costs.

  1. By a margin of almost two-to-one, voters say the health care reform law will hurt rather than help the economy. Forty-six percent say health care reform will hurt the economy and 26 percent say it will help (20 percent say it will have no effect). Both Independents and battleground-state voters believe it will hurt more than help – 47 to 20 percent among Independents, and 47 to 26 percent in battleground states.
  2. Far more voters say their health care costs have gone up than gone down since the law was passed. Despite President Obama's pledge that the plan "will lower health insurance premiums for the average family by $2,500 per year," 38 percent say their costs have gone up since the law was passed, and only 4 percent say they have gone down (53 percent say they have remained the same).
  3. Voters say controlling costs is the top priority for health care in America today, and among the voters most concerned about reducing costs, two-thirds think the health care reform law does not address that priority. Given three options, 46 percent say controlling the cost of health care is the top priority, 25 percent say improving the quality of care is most important, and 23 percent say covering the uninsured is paramount. (This is in line with our June 2009 survey that found 44 percent concerned about costs, 25 percent quality of care, and 23 percent covering the uninsured.) Overall 55 percent of voters today say the law does not address their top priority, while 32 percent say it does. Among those most concerned about costs, only 21 percent say health care reform addresses that priority, while 68 percent say it does not.
  4. While Democrats would prefer to get their health care insurance through the federal government, Republicans, Independents, and battleground-state voters overwhelmingly prefer to get their insurance through a private insurance company. Democratic voters are out of step with the views of the rest of the electorate on the best way to get health insurance coverage. Among Democrats, 51 percent want to get health insurance through the federal government, and only 36 percent want to get insurance through a private company. On the other hand, Republicans, Independents, and battleground-state voters overwhelmingly prefer to get their insurance through a private company by margins of 86 to 7 percent, 63 to 24 percent, and 62 to 28 percent, respectively. The overall margin favoring the private marketplace (60 to 29 percent) matches our June 2009 survey (60 to 31 percent).

Messaging on Health Care Reform

With strong arguments in favor and against the health care reform law, the overall results reflect the polarized nature of the health care debate. Among critically important Independents and battleground-state voters, the Republican argument garners more support in most cases. The Democratic argument fares best when promising to change the law and then stop talking about it. In short, the Democrats' best hope is to ignore the president's signature domestic achievement. (Democracy Corps wrote all statements for the Democratic candidates.)

  1. Long and detailed arguments making the case for and against the health care reform law yield only an even split on whether the law is a good or bad idea, and Independents and battleground-state voters still say it is a bad idea.

    Voters were asked to choose between two statements:

    The Republican candidate says ObamaCare is bad for America. Our number one problem is the cost of care, and this law will raise, not lower, our health care costs. It will increase our health insurance premiums, increase our taxes, increase the deficit, and hurt the quality of care. The law hurts seniors by cutting $500 billion from Medicare and takes away benefits offered under Medicare Advantage. Tens of thousands of small businesses that cannot afford to buy health insurance will be forced to pay a new IRS-collected tax of $3,000 per employee, which will cause many people to lose their jobs or be forced into part-time work. The law injects government bureaucrats between patients and their doctors. This law was a bad idea from the start, and it's still a bad idea.

    The Democratic candidate says the Affordable Care Act is good for America. Health care bills are skyrocketing, companies are dropping plans or forcing employees to pay big deductibles and insurance companies are refusing people with pre-existing conditions. We are finally getting things under control. People with insurance keep their policies and doctors, but will get tax credits to make health care more affordable for the middle class. Insurance companies can't discriminate against you when you get sick. Small businesses will get tax credits if they want to provide health insurance and the uninsured will get access to lower cost plans and help with premiums. Medicare is protected and seniors pay less for prescription drugs. We finally started to make health care more affordable.

    Voters overall split evenly between these two statements, with 46 percent agreeing with the Republican candidate who says ObamaCare is a bad idea, and 47 percent agreeing with the Democratic candidate that the Affordable Care Act is a good idea. Republican and Democratic voters predictably line up behind their candidates (89 to 7 percent for Republicans; 85 to 12 percent for Democrats). But the real story lies with Independents and battleground-state voters, both of which say health care reform is a bad idea, by 47 to 43 percent among Independents and 50 to 44 percent among battleground voters.

  2. Similarly, arguments about whether the health care reform law increases taxes on the middle class also yield an even split, but once again Independents and battleground-state voters side with the Republican candidate arguing that it does.

    Voters were asked to choose between two statements:

    The Republican candidate says ObamaCare increases taxes by $500 billion on the American people and requires everyone to buy health insurance or pay what the Supreme Court says is a brand new IRS-collected tax. That tax could ultimately cost middle-class families who cannot afford insurance more than $2,000 per year. The federal government has no business telling American citizens what they must buy with their own money, including health insurance.

    The Democratic candidate says the Affordable Care Act provides tax credits to small businesses and to families earning up to 50,000 dollars to help make health insurance premiums affordable. Only those earning over $200,000 pay any more taxes. It asks the 1 percent who can afford health coverage but don't buy it to pay a penalty because, as free riders, they are irresponsibly passing on their costs to you. This is a reasonable approach that Mitt Romney championed in Massachusetts.

    Voters overall split at 47 percent each for these two arguments. But Independents agree with the Republican that ObamaCare raises taxes by 48 to 42 percent, as do battleground-state voters by 49 to 45 percent.

  3. The only way the Democratic candidate can achieve majority support for his argument is to pledge to change the law, and to stop talking about it in favor of the economy.

    Voters were asked to choose between two statements:

    The Republican candidate says we should repeal ObamaCare because it is hurting our economy. The massive tax increases, new regulations, and uncertainty created by the law are making it much harder for both large and small businesses to create new jobs and hire new workers. ObamaCare is one of the main reasons our economy has not been able to pull out of the recession.

    The Democratic candidate says the Supreme Court has spoken and it’s now time for us to move forward. We should make improvements in the Affordable Care Act that reduce health care costs for people and small businesses, but our main focus should be on our economy – getting people back to work with better paying jobs. Let's not go back and refight the same old health care political battles.

    The Democratic candidate wins a bare majority among all voters with this argument, 51 to 44 percent. Independent voters still agree with the Republican candidate that we should repeal ObamaCare because it is hurting the economy by 48 to 44 percent. Battleground-state voters say it is time to move forward by 53 to 44 percent. But it is a measure of the weakness of the health care reform law that the only way the Democrat wins the argument is to promise to change it to "reduce health care costs for people and small businesses" (since voters do not believe it does that now), and to stop talking about it and focus on the economy instead.

Mood of the Country

The mood of the country continues to be dismal.

  1. Three-fifths of voters think the country is on the wrong track. Sixty percent of voters overall think America is on the wrong track, and only 32 percent think the country is going the right direction. Only Democrats think the country is going the right direction, by 61 to 30 percent. But Republicans, Independents, and battleground-state voters overwhelmingly disagree, by margins of 92 to 6 percent, 67 to 25 percent, and 65 to 31 percent, respectively.
  2. Three-fourths of voters think the country is still in a recession. By 74 to 22 percent, voters think the economy is still in a recession. Pessimistic views of the economy cross partisan and geographical lines. Republicans say the economy is in recession by 85 to 13 percent, as do Independents by 75 to 22 percent, Democrats by 64 to 30 percent, and battleground-state voters by 77 to 20 percent.

Congressional Job Approval and Generic Ballot

Congressional job approval ratings remain under water, but Independents prefer Republicans on the generic ballot.

  1. Three-fourths of voters disapprove of Congress's job performance. Overall 19 percent of voters approve of the job being done by Congress, while 74 percent disapprove. Divided partisan control of Congress and the resulting gridlock ensures that disapproval crosses partisan and ideological lines. Republicans disapprove by 75 to 19 percent, Independents agree by 78 to 16 percent, as do Democrats by 70 to 22 percent and battleground voters by 76 to 18 percent.
  2. Independents and battleground-state voters rate Republicans in Congress and Democrats in Congress equally negatively. Independents give Republicans in Congress a favorable-to-unfavorable rating of 36 to 53 percent, compared to 33 to 56 percent for Democrats in Congress. Similarly, battleground-state voters rate Republicans in Congress at 43 to 50 percent, compared to 42 to 51 percent for Democrats in Congress.
  3. Democrats hold a narrow lead on the Congressional generic ballot, but Republicans lead among Independents and battleground-state voters. A generic Democratic candidate leads a generic Republican candidate by 42 to 39 percent. But Independents prefer the Republican candidate by 34 to 28 percent, as do battleground-state voters by 42 to 39 percent. The Republican advantage in enthusiasm could eliminate the Democratic advantage on the generic ballot.

Conclusion

The fundamental problem President Obama has faced with his health care reform law is that he never persuaded at least half the country that the direction he wanted to go was correct. Yet he forced it through Congress anyway, which ensured an ongoing battle over the future of the law. Even after the Supreme Court decision, more voters oppose than support the law. Strong arguments in its favor fail to garner majority support, and the only argument that succeeds in doing so promises to change it and stop talking about it.

Republican candidates can gain support among Independents and in battleground states by arguing that ObamaCare is a bad idea that raises rather than lowers health care costs, increases premiums, increases the deficit, and imposes a major new IRS-collected tax on the middle class.

Methodology

This survey of 1000 likely voters nationally, including an oversample to reach a total of 462 battleground-state voters, was conducted July 9-12, 2012. Respondents were selected randomly from a random-digit-dialing sample including both cellular and landline telephone numbers, and were contacted by live interviewers. All respondents confirmed that they are registered to vote in the county in which they live. Quotas were set for state, age, and race based on state registration and previous turnout. By party the sample is 36 percent Democrat, 31 percent Independent, and 29 percent Republican.

The margins of error for responses with an even split – 50 percent for one response and 50 percent for another response – are ±3.10 percent for the full sample, ±5.70 percent for Republicans (296 respondents), ±5.58 percent for Independents (309 respondents), and ±5.19 percent for Democrats (357 respondents). The margin of error is smaller when one response receives a higher level of support. For example, the margin of error is ±2.68 percent when 75 percent of respondents in the full sample choose one response and 25 percent choose another response.

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