- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 29, 2014

In a poll with implications for the midterm elections, a majority of Americans still disapprove of Obamacare despite higher-than-anticipated enrollment during its first round of sign-ups.

Gallup says 51 percent of Americans disapprove of the Affordable Care Act, compared 43 percent who approve of the signature overhaul.

The net approval rate of minus-8 shows views of the law have varied little, despite the turnaround of the federal health exchange’s website and a late surge in enrollment the White House hailed as a victory for its reforms.

Fewer than four in 10 adults say the law will make the country’s health care situation better, a plurality of 44 percent say it will make things worse and 16 percent say it will not make a big difference.

After a dismal rollout of HealthCare.gov, many thought the law could be dead on arrival. But a “tech surge” fixed the portal that serves 36 states, and interest in subsidized health options spiked near the March 31 deadline to sign up — in part because Americans will now be penalized if they can afford health insurance but do not obtain it.

The law’s recovery resulted in 8 million sign-ups on the health exchanges, where people can shop for private health plans and qualify for government subsidies that knock down premium costs.

But public opinion of the law has been “relatively steady throughout this front-and-center saga, mostly immune to both the good and bad developments,” Gallup said.

The poll results could drive campaign activity ahead of crucial midterm elections this November. As Republicans try to retake the Senate, incumbent Democrats who voted for Obamacare are tempering their support for the law’s positive aspects with vocal concerns about its most unpopular features.

On the other hand, Democrats may decide to embrace the law’s new coverage options and lambast Republicans for refusing to expand Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of residents in their states.

“It’s uncertain what role this still unpopular law will play in the midterm elections; Americans say the economy and unemployment overshadow healthcare in terms of the most important problem facing the U.S.,” Gallup said.

“But many Republican candidates competing against Democratic incumbent senators in states such as North Carolina, Arkansas, and Louisiana are highlighting their opposition to the law. Some Democrats may try to embrace and defend it, while others may try to change the topic of discussion.”