July 19, 2010 3:32PM

ObamaCare Is Unpopular: a Response to Maggie Mahar

The Century Foundation’s Maggie Mahar is one of the Left’s more knowledgeable and insightful health policy wonks. Today, she blogs about my colleague Michael Tanner’s claim — made in his recent white paper, “Bad Medicine: A Guide to the Real Costs and Consequences of the New Health Care Law” — that ObamaCare, which became law in March, “remains deeply unpopular. Recent polls show substantial majorities support repealing it.” To support that claim, Tanner cites a May poll showing support for repeal at 63 percent.

Mahar says Tanner is “cherry picking”:

Bad Medicine was released July 12. Why didn’t Tanner include June numbers? Instead, he hand‐​picked the one poll, over a seventeen week span, that shows support for repeal running as high as 63 percent…Indeed, the May 22 poll turned out to be a “bounce”—merely a blip on the screen. Over the next five weeks, the number of respondents who favored repeal fell, while opposition to killing the bill rose.

I’m not sure why Tanner didn’t include more recent numbers, but it may have been because it often takes 6 weeks for a paper to emerge from Cato’s publishing process.

More important, while Mahar is correct that the 63‐​percent figure is so far the high water mark for repeal, it was hardly “merely a blip.” She herself reports that support for repeal was 60 percent in the very next Rasmussen poll. Nor is it quite accurate to say that support for repeal fell over the next five weeks. Support for repeal reached 60 percent again on July 1, and at no point does Rasmussen show support for repeal falling below 52 percent. In fact, Rasmussen today reports that support for repeal climbed three points to 56 percent in its July 16–17 poll, while opposition to repeal fell by four points to 38 percent. It would be more accurate to say that Rasmussen finds opposition to repeal hovering between 32–42 percent, and support for repeal hovering between 52–63 percent, with no clear trend on either side. But Rasmussen does find far greater intensity on the pro‐​repeal side: in the July 16–17 poll, 47 percent “strongly favor” repeal, while only 25 percent are “strongly opposed.”

Mahar then selects her own polls to support the Left’s theme that the more Americans learn about ObamaCare, the more they like it. But when we take all available polls into account (as I did earlier today using Poll​ster​.com), we see that opposition to ObamaCare still leads support and the trendline is not moving in the direction Mahar says it is. When we look only at polls of likely & registered voters, opposition to ObamaCare commands a slight majority and leads support by a consistent 9‐​point margin.

Tanner may have picked the most dramatic numbers, but he didn’t need to. ObamaCare remains deeply unpopular — in spite of Mahar and major media outlets misleading the public by claiming that the law makes preventive care (and other services) available to patients “free of charge.”