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Poll Takes Pulse of Obamacare

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2015 - 12:01 AM Polling Institute

Polling Institute Finds Support for Obamacare as Law Enters Third Year

With the third annual open enrollment period for Obamacare now underway, a majority of Massachusetts residents say they support the landmark legislation, according to the latest survey from the Western New England University Polling Institute.

The telephone survey of 404 adults, conducted Nov. 8-15, found that 56 percent support the Affordable Care Act, while 33 percent are opposed and 11 percent said they did not know or declined to answer. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus five percentage points.

Support for the law has dropped six percentage points from a survey that the Polling Institute conducted in October 2013, at the start of the first open enrollment period under the law, when 62 percent said they supported the legislation. Opposition has remained steady, at about one-third of those polled.

The latest survey also asked residents to assess the general state of things in Massachusetts and the job performance of Governor Charlie Baker and U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey. The poll found:

-- 58 percent of adults said the state is headed in the right direction, virtually unchanged from the last time the Polling Institute posed the question in October 2013. Twenty-nine percent said things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track, down from 36 percent in October 2013.

-- 52 percent of adults and 55 percent of registered voters approve of the job Warren is doing as United States senator, down from 62 percent among registered voters in April.

-- 42 percent of adults and 46 percent of registered voters approve of the job Markey is doing as United States senator, up from 35 percent in April.

-- 64 percent of adults and 72 percent of registered voters said they approve of the job that Baker is doing as governor. .The 72 percent job approval is up nine percentage points since April, the last time the Polling Institute asked the question.

The Polling Institute survey ended on Sunday, Nov. 15, the day before Baker sparked controversy when he said he would not accept Syrian refugees in Massachusetts without more detailed information from the federal government on how federal authorities screen the refugees.

Tim Vercellotti, director of the Polling Institute and a professor of political science at Western New England University, said that Baker’s job approval numbers may have fluctuated since the Polling Institute completed data collection for the latest survey.

“Given the significant amount of publicity surrounding Baker’s remarks on screening of Syrian refugees, there may have been some shifts in public opinion regarding his job performance this week,” Vercellotti said. “Time will tell.”

The latest survey found that while support for the Affordable Care Act has dropped six points compared to the October 2013 poll, the public is still more supportive than it was in April 2010, when only 46 percent of Massachusetts adults said they backed the law. President Obama signed the legislation into law March 23, 2010.

Under the law, Americans who meet income guidelines must buy health insurance or pay a penalty. The law also bars insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals with preexisting conditions, and allows young adults to remain covered by their parents’ health insurance until age 26. The open enrollment period for buying health insurance for 2016 through marketplaces established under the law began Nov. 1, and expires Jan. 31, 2016.

Opposition to the Affordable Care Act continues to come from two directions according to the latest survey. Among Massachusetts residents who said they oppose the law, 66 percent said the legislation goes too far in making changes, and 22 percent said the law does not go far enough in making changes.

Support for the law varies sharply by party registration. Among the 354 registered voters who completed the survey, 83 percent of Democrats said they support the law, as did 47 percent of unenrolled voters, while only 14 percent of Republican voters said they back Obamacare.

Women were more likely than men to support the law (62 percent of women versus 50 percent of men). Younger residents were more likely than older residents to back Obamacare, with 61 percent of respondents ages 18 to 39 indicating their support, compared to 56 percent of adults ages 55 to 64 and 52 percent of adults age 65 and older.

Although a majority of adults said they support the Affordable Care Act, few give the law credit for improving the quality of health care they receive. Eighteen percent of adults said the law had improved their quality of care, 16 percent said it had reduced the quality of care, and 61 percent said the law had not made a difference.

Clear differences emerged along party and gender lines regarding quality of care. Among Democrats, 27 percent said the law had improved the quality of care they receive, and five percent said it had reduced the quality of care. Among Republican voters, only three percent said the Affordable Care Act had improved the quality of care, and 41 percent said it had reduced the quality of care. Women were nearly three times as likely as men to say the law had improved the quality of their care (26 percent of women compared to nine percent of men).

Forty percent of adults said they have seen their health care costs go up under the law, while 48 percent said the law has made no difference and only six percent said the law has reduced the amount they pay for health care. Sixty-two percent of Republicans said they are paying more under the law, as did 53 percent of unenrolled voters and only 28 percent of Democrats. Seventeen percent of Democrats said the law had reduced their health care costs, while only three percent of unenrolled voters said the same. No Republican voters reported a drop in health care costs under the law.

Looking ahead to 2016, 53 percent of adults said they expect to pay more for health care next year, while 37 percent said they expect to pay the same amount and five percent said they expect to pay less.

Vercellotti noted that Massachusetts residents have had some time to get used to the law, which was patterned after a similar law in Massachusetts.

“The latest survey data, while showing support for the Affordable Care Act, also seem to reflect a sense of realism about the law and its limitations,” he said. “Most residents said they have not seen much change in the quality of care that they receive, and they still expect to pay more for health care in 2016.”