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Obamacare Unpopularity And Predicting 2014

Memo Pad Politics

Obamacare Unpopularity And Predicting 2014


Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) — Yes, it’s the middle of the week, but it’s not too late for a little Monday Cranky Blogging, especially when some journalist is being especially obtuse. This time? It’s Josh Kraushaar, who is absolutely certain that Obamacare is going to be a major electoral factor in 2014.

How does he know? Well, he notes that the Affordable Care Act is unpopular, and it’s certainly correct that Obamacare polls badly. While there are months to go until November, it’s also true that the ACA is a bit more unpopular recently than it was earlier.

But then it gets very, very, tricky.

There’s an enormous gap between “Obamacare polls badly” and actual voting outcomes in November 2014. Does “Obamacare polls badly” lead to voters casting ballots for Republicans when they otherwise would have voted for a Democrat? Or to Republican voters voting who otherwise would have stayed home? Or Democratic voters passing by the local polling station instead of voting? It’s not impossible that a single issue, such as Obamacare, will move votes. But it’s unlikely.

What does move votes? Partisanship, of course. Party identification is a major factor in vote choice, even for many of those who think of themselves as voting for a candidate, not a party. Incumbency, certainly. In House elections, challengers are often little known, with incumbents benefiting from their rivals’ anonymity. Presidential approval matters — candidates from the president’s party are helped or harmed depending on how voters believe the person in the Oval Office is doing. Those are the major factors.

So how would an issue such as the ACA factor into voter decisions? In two possible ways. One is that voters who don’t like the law would hold members of Congress directly responsible. Political scientist Gary Jacobson has demonstrated that if voters like (or dislike) something about a candidate, including perhaps the candidate’s issue positions or actions while in office, that it can have an effect beyond party and other factors. A team of political scientists found that voting for health care reform cost House Democrats about six percentage points in 2010, enough (all else being equal) to produce a roughly 25-seat swing to the Republicans. The other way is that the ACA might influence President Barack Obama’s popularity, which, in turn, can influence vote choice.

I’m a longtime skeptic of that 2010 finding — even though the authors are friends of mine whom I respect a lot. Why? Because the study can’t account for what is an important counterfactual: What would have happened had Democrats passed some other signature legislation along partisan lines in 2009 or 2010. In my view, any high-profile Democratic bill at that point would have been vigorously attacked by conservatives, with very similar consequences. Unfortunately, there’s no way to prove that one way or another.



  1. Bill Thompson February 20, 2014

    In America one thing is for certain, the population has a very short memory. The government shutdown the endless stream of crazy comments coming from the GOP will be quickly forgotten. The negative effects on our economy due to obstructionism will be forgotten come polling time. The GOP strategists of fully aware of this fact and hammer away on two or three subjects, they are focused and unrelenting. One only has to look as far as Facebook or the news to see the endless anti-Obamacare barrage on a daily basis. Make no mistake this issue will be used in this campaign in a very effective way to rally the troops. In the Northeast the message is very clear and has been very effective, to the point of very progressive people openly speaking out against this legislation. At least in the area in which I live this will be a major factor in the upcoming 2014 election. The Democrats need to quickly, effectively and in a singular voice pick one or two issues and start hammering away at them, or this upcoming election is going to be disastrous from my point of view.

  2. FT66 February 20, 2014

    Some journalists write what is in their heads and try very hard to convince people who read their articles to fall in line of what they think. This reminds me before 2012 General Election, when they tried hard to convince people that Dems are not enthusiastic to vote. This was a total lie. Dems came out in drove and proved them wrong. Now writing that Obamacare to be a decisive factor in 2014 mid-term election is another try as they did in 2012. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves: are there some incentives these journalists may be receive to write all these nonsense? Why can’t they write as their opinion/views on something instead of planting their thoughts in people’s heads?

  3. charles king February 20, 2014

    One thing that The President has taught the American public (Critical Thinking) it works. The President knows he would not have been re-elected if the People had not looked at the facts off the election, Man that is What? critical thinking is all about, it works against all the Bull-S*** that your opponent puts out. WHO? the hell are these people Which? think the public are stupid. Why? are they so hell bent on getting into the different seats of Power. MONIES are not the winners of Power under our Democracy the VOTE is still supreme. The GOP should get with running the country and stop trying to take over the country. Democracy ” For the People, By the People, and Of the People, so GOP just stick with the program and get the hell out of the way so that we all can grow. Thank You are the magic words with me. I Love Ya All. Keep an alert-out for Plutocracy VS Democracy . Mr. C. E. KING

  4. Bill February 20, 2014

    What does the GOP have to offer the American People? NOTHING!

  5. howa4x February 20, 2014

    Obama already ran a blistering campaign defending the ACA and won by 5 million votes. The GOP has not put up a plan that people will buy into since it’s much worse, they have to run on the government shutdown. Also they have to run on failure to pass immigration reform, or a jobs bill, failure to extend unemployment benefits, removing funds from programs that feed children, failure to allow reasonable background checks to pass, trying to always restrict access to contraception/abortion, calling climate change a hoax, failing to fund infrastructure rebuilding, trying to repeal Dodd/ Frank, as well as the ACA. Trying to pass laws against same sex marriage in red states and denying access to health care to over 5 million in red states. So would you rather run on this record in the general election or the democratic one?

    1. Independent1 February 20, 2014

      Let’s hope that the majority of Dems running for Congress in 2014 make the electorate in their state aware of a lot of the GOP negatives that you just listed.

      1. howa4x February 21, 2014

        There are more independents, and democrats than republicans. We all have to get out and vote and put the tea party out of it’s misery and power

    2. Allan Richardson February 22, 2014

      The only thing Republicans have to offer is the status quo ante. That’s Latin for the mess we WERE in before.

  6. Barbara Morgan February 21, 2014

    Democrats need to start campaign now not later and they need to repeat all the things the Republicans have done to hurt the Country and 99% of its population over and over and over again every day that way voters can not forget what the GOP has done. Also all of us need to ask people that complain about the President and his policies what has the Republican Party done in the past 5 years to help you, your family and this Country then shoot down anything they thing they come up with because all can be shot down .


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