Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and Democracy Corps released a new “battleground” states poll today showing that the Affordable Care Act aka “ObamaCare” is gaining traction in Republican-held congressional districts and is not gloom and doom for Democrats this fall as the Beltway media villagers and punditocracy have said is the conventional wisdom. Once again, conventional wisdom is almost always wrong. The survey (.pdf) (highlights):
Battleground voters more positive on Affordable Care Act and GOP likely hurt by repeal focus, starting with independents
Best Democratic strategy for base turnout and vote in 2014 includes ACA but overwhelmingly focuses on economic choice
[O]ne big thing has changed [since December] and that is the views of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. Across all of the battleground districts, support has increased on all three tracking measures—and this is particularly true in the Republican-held seats. There have been big shifts on wanting to implement and fix the law and big drops in intensity for those who want to repeal and replace the law. This is one of the most significant changes we have seen in tracking in the battleground — and Republicans already have a lot of explaining to do.
What is really striking is that this change is overwhelmingly driven by Independents. In our last battleground survey in December, independents favored repeal by a 12-point margin; they now support implementation by 7 points.
This support has grown in both size and intensity among college-educated women and unmarried women.
The drop in intensity on the opposition/repeal side risks the GOP’s off-year turnout strategy – and indeed, in the Republican seats, the continued focus on ACA produces a somewhat lower turnout of base Republicans. In any case, by continuing to focus on the ACA, Republicans are emphasizing their weakest message according to this battleground poll.
The shift against repeal and opposition has just kicked in, but could begin to erode the Republican vote in the months ahead.
* * *
The strongest framework for Democrats in challenging the Republican incumbents and in fending off Republican challengers is their support for “Speaker John Boehner and his policies that have hurt the economy and done nothing about jobs.” Half (50 percent) say that their incumbent “may be okay” but they would not vote to reelect because he or she supports the Speaker and the policies that produced gridlock and damaged the economy, and his priorities do not include getting to work on jobs.
That framework takes advantage of the terrible brand position of John Boehner and the Republicans in the House. What is so striking is how much more powerful is this framework than a parallel test with Medicare and taxes. Democrats need to be focused on the Speaker and the economy.
The strongest Democratic messages in the simulated campaign and the regression modeling begin with the economic agenda tested here:
Everyone in Washington is fighting instead of focusing on jobs and jobs that pay enough to live on. We should raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, make sure women get equal pay for equal work, make job training and college more affordable, stop tax breaks for companies that export jobs…
The strongest messages also include education and fixing the health care law, while keeping the insurance companies out, as well as support for specific health care reforms. Nevertheless, it is critical for voters to understand first that Democrats are focused on jobs that pay enough to live on, while Speaker Boehner and Republicans in Congress have hurt the economy and done nothing about jobs.
The experiment will show that base voter turnout is higher with an economic focus, though health care messages and attacks remain critically important to the our message strategy.
Tipping Point on 2014 and The Affordable Care Act?
The Republicans have bet heavily on Obamacare’s unpopularity, but that misreads the public’s views on the Affordable Care Act. The latest national survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for Democracy Corps and Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund finds evidence that prompts us to urge the political class to re-examine its assumptions about the Affordable Care Act and about this being a Republican year.
This is a base and genuine turnout issue for Republicans, but public judgment about the new law is dynamic and moving and could come to haunt the Republicans. Support for the law is rising, particularly among Democrats and minority voters. Only a minority is opposed because this is big government and only a minority wants to repeal the law.
But to counter Republican intensity and turnout in this off-year, Democrats will have to feel just as strongly about the risks of repeal and the loss of benefits. In this poll, we find that a message on the really positive changes that would be lost if the law were repealed gets attention with these off-year voters – who do respond with heightened intensity. With more than 7.1 million successfully signing up through exchanges, voters could be at a tipping point – and Democrats need to making the right case.
That could impact turnout on the Democratic side and should prompt the political class to re-consider many of the dominant assumptions about the ACA and the 2014 election.
- Just 44 percent now clearly oppose the Affordable Care Act because it goes too far. By a 9-point margin (54 percent to 44 percent) voters support the ACA or wish it went further.
- Democratic base voters had displayed some ambivalence about the law—but because they worry that it does not go far enough. Support is very high with the Rising American Electorate, probably the greatest beneficiaries of the law – but enthusiasm is a little tempered by uncertainty and a preference for changes that would have reduced the role of private insurance companies. As the law’s benefits become more visible, these voters may become more engaged to defend the reforms at the ballot box.
- By significant margins, likely 2014 voters want the law implemented and fixed rather than repealed and replaced. By a 9-point margin (53 percent to 44 percent), likely voters say implement the law rather than repeal it. These margins are much bigger among Democratic base voters—especially minorities, but including young people—who have been central to the public debate about the law’s successes and failures.
- Most importantly, a Democratic message saying the law needs fixes but makes critical changes and offers major benefits bests the Republican message crafted by Resurgent Republic – the conservative counter-part to Democracy Corps. Likely voters choose this Democratic Affordable Care Act message over the Republican offer by 5 points. Critically, the Rising American Electorate favor Democrats’ message in this debate by 22 points, and do so with real intensity (half say they strongly favor this message over the Republican alternative).
Yes, Democracy Corps is a Democratic polling firm, but these poll findings are consistent with the trend found in other polls conducted over the past month.
The single message GOP campaign strategy of “repeal ObamaCare,” without a GOP replacement that keeps the features of ObamCare that the public likes, and not having any policies for job creation and economic security beyond more tax cuts for Plutocrats under the disproved and discredited faith based supply-side “trickle down” GOP economic theory, is not a winning strategy.
Yes, the GOP will still win seats in GOP voter registration heavy districts where their partisans vote out of pure tribalism, but in more competitive districts, there should be a marked shift towards Democratic candidates in the coming months ahead. Democrats may very well retain the Senate, albeit by the slimmest of margins.