Politico Poll: Plurality Supports GOP Healthcare Plan, Trump Approval Hits 52 Percent

Posted: Mar 16, 2017 10:30 AM
Politico Poll: Plurality Supports GOP Healthcare Plan, Trump Approval Hits 52 Percent

I'd call this poll a narrative-buster (despite the headline), but I should place a meaningful caveat on the table from the get-go: This survey was in the field after the legislation was released, but before the CBO score unleashed a bundle of ugly (and extremely misleading) headlines about the bill's potential impact on coverage rates. If you missed my full breakdown of the data yesterday, click through for details. So I'd imagine that these numbers could take a PR hit as that narrative takes root, especially if Republicans are too busy sniping at each other to counter media-abetted attacks from the Left. Nevertheless, there are encouraging signs within this survey, which was taken as Democrats were telling everyone who would listen that the bill was a mean-spirited dumpster fire that would cancel coverage and kill people. Interestingly, voters are generally positive about the proposal, despite agreeing with the premises of several core Democratic attacks.  Let's dive into some numbers:

(1) Overall, 46 percent of respondents favor the GOPCare plan, with just over one-third opposed. By a 20-point margin, uninsured Americans support the bill.

(2) A narrow plurality (48 percent) disapproves of Obamacare, while a majority (55 percent) wants the law partially or fully repealed. Just 13 percent of Americans want Obamacare kept as-is, with less than a quarter favoring expanding the failing law.

(3) Republicans are trusted more than Democrats on almost every major issue polled, including the economy (+17), jobs (+18), immigration (+15), healthcare (+4), and energy (+2). Democrats have an advantage on the environment (+16). The parties are tied on education.

(4) Respondents are roughly evenly split on whether the Republican plan will improve the US healthcare system and the quality of care, with a slight edge in favor of the bill. Voters are skeptical that the legislation would lower costs (a key point for Republicans to deliver on), and a clear plurality correctly anticipates that the law would reduce the ranks of the insured. Some of the Left's attacks were landing pre-CBO score, yet the proposal was above water by 11 points in this survey.

(5) In a significant break from the past eight years, the public splits closely on whether the country is headed in the right or wrong direction. A majority still says the latter, but the breakdown is an improved (46/54). President Trump is polarizing, with nearly one-third of Americans strongly approving and strongly disapproving of his performance in office. Including leaners, Trump's job approval is a relatively robust 52 percent; 44 percent disapprove. Paul Ryan is the Congressional leader viewed most favorably by voters (+0), with Sen. Chuck Schumer scoring the lowest of the 'big four' (-24).

By overwhelming margins, Americans back the AHCA's provisions to protect consumers with pre-existing conditions, to allow adult children to remain on their parents' plan through age 26, and to expand consumers' ability to contribute to tax-free health savings accounts. There is also double-digit support for repealing the individual mandate tax and the bill's Medicaid reform. Respondents narrowly favor replacing Obamacare's subsidies with refundable tax credits, while a plurality is skeptical of stripping taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood (Republicans would point out that this money would be redirected to health centers that don't perform abortions and aren't embroiled in scandal).  The partisan breakdown of this survey is R+3, which is historically generous for Republicans.  It does appear to under-sample independents, who have leaned right in recent years.  Importantly, a slightly red tint within this sample probably isn't terribly unrepresentative of the electorate that will decide key Senate races in 2018, although gubernatorial contests could be a different story.  I should also point out that other polling data points are mixed (see update).  CNN's latest poll shows plurality disapproval of Obamacare, but Kaiser's new numbers reveal the slimmest majority opposed to repeal.  Democratic outfit PPP, meanwhile, push-polled their way to dreadful results for the GOP plan, but that was the goal of their questions.

I'll leave you with a reminder that passage of an Obamacare replacement bill is far from a fait accompli.  Moderates in the House and Senate are loudly objecting to certain elements of the bill -- almost certainly spooked by the CBO score -- while some conservatives are saying that they're already against the legislation before any centrist-appeasing changes might be made.  As I've been arguing all along, the bill needs to be fixed in a few significant ways, some of which would please and upset the two skeptical GOP camps.  But the only way to marshal the votes for anything even resembling repeal is to eventually come together and unify.  Otherwise, Obamacare is here to stay.  That's part of the reason I reject Sen. Lindsey Graham's musing that maybe Republicans should just walk away let the current law continue to unravel.  The GOP ran on replacing a failing law for four straight national elections, winning three of them.  To punt on a chance to change policy for the better would be an embarrassing and irresponsible abdication of responsibility -- especially with so many people suffering.  Plus, even if and when Obamacare kept getting worse, there is no guarantee that Republicans would control the levers of power to repeal and replace in the future.  In fact, if Democrats are part of that process (or if they control it), we're virtually certain to get something much worse than the Trump/Ryan plan.  McConnell is correct here:

And since there's so much negativity in the bloodstream about this bill, here's a recent Wall Street Journal editorial accentuating the opportunity for an historic conservative accomplishment.

UPDATE - The latest Fox News poll contains much worse news for the GOP, with a majority opposing the bill. Roughly one-fifth of that opposition comes from Republicans, many of whom believe the plan doesn't do enough to uproot the existing law. Voters are split on Obamacare, with a plurality believing that it will collapse on its own if nothing is done. Trump's job approval is almost the opposite of the Politico poll, at (43/51).  One big reason these polls are so far apart?  The one described above has a partisan sample of R+3.  Fox News' numbers are from a D+9 sample.

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