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People Don't Like Obamacare. They Like Defunding it Even Less

August 28, 2013
The Washington Post
Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan

Two things are true about Obamacare. First, the law has been broadly unpopular for the last several years. Second, the idea of defunding it — as some conservative Republicans are pushing — is even less popular.

The new August tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is the resource for public opinion on the law, makes that case definitively.

Let’s start with overall approval of the law. Forty-two percent of those tested have an unfavorable view of it while 37 percent view it favorably, numbers that have been consistent since late 2011. Even the party breakdowns inside the main question are remarkably steady; roughly six in 10 Democrats, one in three independents and 15 percent (or so) of Republicans approve of Obamacare.

And yet, the public is even more decisive about its opposition to defunding Obamacare, with 57 percent saying they would disapprove of such a move — including roughly one in three Republicans — while just 36 percent would approve.

The most commonly cited reason to oppose the defunding of Obamacare is also telling; nearly seven in 10 against defunding feel that way because “the appropriate way to stop a law is to repeal it, or not to pass it in the first place.”

The Kaiser poll proves what many establishment Republicans have been whispering for weeks: The only way for their side to lose, politically speaking, a fight over President Obama’s health care law is to focus the debate on removing the funds for it.

To be clear: There is no doubt that for a sizable portion of the Republican base Obamacare has become a symbol of the sort of government-will-solve-all-problems approach they believe this administration (and Democrats generally) have taken. Getting rid of it has become more cause than political calculation. For some of the conservatives leading the defund charge, there are individual political upsides to staying on the issue.

But, making your base happy is not the same thing as winning general elections in which you need to convince voters who don’t agree with you all (or even most) of the time. Continuing to push the defunding of Obamacare then amounts to the GOP cutting off its political nose to spite its face.

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