A new Kaiser Health Tracking poll has bad news for Democrats — and for Republicans. Bad news for the Democrats: there’s still considerable ignorance about the Affordable Health Care Act and many Americans will remain uninsured. Bad news for the Republicans: many people are getting tired of hearing about the issue over and over again and want to focus on other things.
In the final days of open enrollment for new health insurance options under the ACA, substantial shares of the uninsured remain unaware of the law’s individual mandate and the looming deadline to sign up for coverage. A third of those who lack coverage as of mid-March are unaware that the law requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine. When it comes to the specifics, four in ten of the uninsured (39 percent) are aware that the deadline to sign up for coverage is at the end of March, leaving about six in ten unaware of the March deadline.
When reminded of the mandate and the deadline, half of those without coverage as of mid-March say they think they will remain uninsured, while four in ten expect to obtain coverage and one in ten are unsure.
As Talking Points Memo points out, this is not good news for the GOP, which has felt Obamacare could be its ticket to retaking the Senate.
53 percent of Americans, including 51 percent of independents, say they’re tired of debating Obamacare and think that the country should focus on other issues.
Even among Republicans, the numbers are almost evenly split: 47 percent are tired of the debate, while 49 percent think it should continue.
Democratic operatives have long told TPM that they’re skeptical about claims that Obamacare will be the defining issue of 2014. The law’s unpopularity surged during HealthCare.gov’s disastrous launch last October, but, as the Kaiser poll indicates, its approval and disapproval ratings are returning to pre-launch levels.
“The only trend we’re seeing in the Obamacare debate is that more and more voter fatigue has set in,” Matt Canter, deputy executive director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told TPM earlier this month. “We’re seeing more and more voters say that they are sick and tired of wasting time and energy on this debate.”
Is this yet another case of the GOP talking mostly to its base to get them out to vote and almost writing off talking to other parts of the electorate? More from TPM:
Now there are reasons why Obamacare could be an asset for Republicans in November, but it’s probably not because their position will win over the middle segment of voters and swing elections in their favor that way.
Rather, talking up Obamacare’s problems is more likely to be a means of ensuring that the conservative base turns out at the polls. Polling has found that people who support repealing the law are more likely to say that they’ll definitely vote and that health care will be a major factor. Democratic strategists privately acknowledge that health care is more likely to motivate Republican voters.
“People strongly believe that it’s being used for base intensity, for driving base turnout,” Stan Greenberg, a top Democratic pollster, told TPM. “People are very alert to that.”
In some races, where Democrats are defending seats in deep-red states, bringing the base to the ballot might be enough for Republicans to win seats. In others, however, where persuadable voters might be key — think North Carolina, where Democrats actually hold a voter registration advantage — the new findings from Kaiser raise doubts about whether the law will be the election elixir that the GOP seems so confident it will be.
On the other hand, the key to 2014 will be voter turnout and it’s likely that:
–As in the past, the Dems won’t get their voters out in a non-election year.
–Throwing red meat on Obamacare to the hungry hyperpartisans in cages will get them out of their dwellings to vote against Barack Obama, Democrats and anyone perceived as a liberal.
–Some Democrats who are disillusioned with how things have gone under Obama will do what Democrats have done in the past. Why, they’ll teach their party and its bigwigs not to not deliver. They’ll stay home and teach the party a lesson (and then complain after as newly empowered and stronger Republicans make full use of the power they win at the ballot box because Democrats with noses out of joint stay home).
But: if the Democrats do a better job convincing the public about the ACA, if Democratic voters get out and vote, and if the Democrats can woo back a lot of independents, Democrats may not be in as bad a shape as they now appear.
Still, as my grandmother used to say: if I had wheels I’d be a trolleycar.