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Don’t Expect the Affordable Care Act to Get Popular

There are signs that the Affordable Care Act popularity got a very tiny boost after the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional, but don’t expect the law to become popular any time in the near future. Opinions about it have remained remarkably fixed and relatively unchanged for two years. While it is true that some provisions of the law are popular, other provision are very unpopular, and overall, impressions of the whole law are not good.

This new Gallup poll helps show why Democrats still have an uphill battle selling this. According to the poll a plurality, 46 percent, thinks the law will hurt the economy. Only 37 percent think it will help it.

All in all, do you think the 2010 healthcare law upheld by the Supreme Court last week will help or hurt the national economy? By party ID, July 2012

While this impression is mostly false, I don’t see how Democrats will change it. Opinions about the law are very strongly set by now and Democrats have basically given up efforts to try to sell the law. Even when Democrats were focused on selling it, they mostly talked about it reducing the deficit long-term and “bending the cost curve.” This was a message disconnected from the people’s main concern at the time, the economy.

I frankly don’t remember any real effort on the part of Democrats to claim the ACA would help the economy in the shorttermm, mainly because it wasn’t designed to do that. That shows in the partisan breakdown on this question. Republicans are far more convinced it is bad for the economy than Democrats are convinced it is good for the economy. I can only assume it is because Republicans pushed a short-term economic argument against the law and Democratic leaders made very little effort to sell it on those terms.

Given that the economy is still the top issue for voters, a law viewed as harmful for the economy is not going to be popular. Simply not being a violation of the constitutional restrictions placed on Congress isn’t going to make the law popular. Its public perception is negative.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at