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From the day it was passed in 2010 without a single Republican vote, President Barack Obama’s health care law has polarized Americans by party affiliation: Most Democrats support it, most Republicans oppose it.
So we were curious when we heard Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., cited strong Republican approval for the law on the July 13, 2014, edition of CNN’s State of the Union. It came during a roundtable discussion of frayed partisan relations in Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner’s effort to sue Obama over his administration’s alleged overreach on implementation of the health care law.
Edwards said, "I don't understand the politics (of the lawsuit), quite frankly. I mean, 74 percent of Republicans support the Affordable Care Act. And so they're suing against their own Republicans."
We decided to take a closer look at whether 74 percent of Republicans really "support the Affordable Care Act."
We started by checking with Edwards’ office. Spokesman Benjamin Gerdes said Edwards was referring to a poll by the Commonwealth Fund, a think tank that supports "better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency" in health care, "particularly for society's most vulnerable." The poll reached 4,425 adults by telephone between April 9 and June 2, 2014.
Pollsters interviewed a sample of adults between 19 and 64 who had selected a private plan or enrolled in Medicaid due to provisions in the Affordable Care Act, or who have had Medicaid for less than 1 year. One of the questions was, "Overall, how satisfied are you with this new health insurance?"
The poll found that 74 percent of the Republicans who had signed up for health coverage at least in part due to the ACA said they were satisfied -- specifically, 30 percent somewhat satisfied and 44 percent very satisfied. That satisfaction rate was rate slightly lower than it was for Democrats (85 percent) and Independents (82 percent), but still overwhelmingly high.
That’s a notable finding, suggesting, essentially, that if you try the ACA, you’ll like the ACA -- even if you’re a Republican.
But Edwards didn’t say that 74 percent of Republicans who signed up for coverage as a result of ACA said they were satisfied with the coverage they got. Instead, she said, "74 percent of Republicans support the Affordable Care Act" -- a much broader assertion, and one that’s undercut by a host of survey data.
For instance, here are three recent polls:
• Quinnipiac Poll, June 24-30: "Do you support or oppose the health care law passed by Barack Obama and Congress in 2010?" Republicans: 9 percent support, 90 percent oppose.
• Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll, June 12-18: "As you may know, a health reform bill was signed into law in 2010. Given what you know about the health reform law, do you have a generally favorable or generally unfavorable opinion of it?" Republicans: 15 percent support, 74 percent oppose.
• Gallup, May 21-25. "Do you generally approve or disapprove of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Obama that restructured the U.S. health care system?" Republicans: 8 percent support. (Figures for "oppose" were not posted.)
By contrast, support for the law among Democrats ranged between 66 percent and 83 percent in these polls -- a yawning partisan gap.
When we got back in touch with Gerdes, he acknowledged that Edwards "did misspeak."
Edwards said that "74 percent of Republicans support the Affordable Care Act." She actually has a reasonable point to make -- that, contrary to the popular impression of the law, most Republicans who have signed up for insurance through the law say they are satisfied with it.
Still, that’s not how Edwards phrased the claim on CNN. On the broader question of whether Republicans "support the Affordable Care Act," the results in recent polls have ranged from 8 percent and 15 percent -- far lower than the 74 percent a viewer would be led to believe from watching Edwards during the roundtable segment. We rate her claim False.
Pollingreport.com, health care poll archive, accessed July 14, 2014
Kaiser Family Foundation, "Health Tracking Poll: Exploring the Public’s Views on the Affordable Care Act," June 2014
Gallup, "Despite Enrollment Success, Healthcare Law Still Unpopular," May 29, 2014
Email interview with Benjamin Gerdes, spokesman for Donna Edwards, July 14, 2014
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