WASHINGTON — After two months of stumbles, pratfalls and intensely negative media scrutiny, overall public opinion on President Barack Obama’s health care law has not changed as much as one might expect, but partisan lines have hardened, judging by recent surveys.
The percentage of Americans who view the law unfavorably has increased since its botched rollout in October. In the latest monthly Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 49 percent of Americans said they viewed the law unfavorably, up from rates in the low 40s that had prevailed for most of the year.
But that increased negativity has not necessarily translated into a change in opinions on the law’s impact or how Congress and the president should respond to it.
The percentage of people who believe the law will change their own family’s health care, for example, has barely budged: About 1 in 5 expect the law will make their families better off, 1 in 3 expect their situation will worsen, and about 4 in 10 don’t expect much change either way, Kaiser has consistently found.
Nor has the percentage of people who want to see the law repealed changed significantly. In Gallup’s most recent poll, for example, just less than one-third of Americans said they supported full repeal of the health care law — exactly the same percentage who took that view two years ago and only a very slight increase from the percentage in early October.
Among those who do not want to see the law repealed, Gallup found opinion splits into three roughly equal groups: those who want to scale back the law, keep it as it is or expand what the law does.
What has changed is the views of partisans on either side: Each side has moved away from the other. Republicans in recent months have gotten more united in their demand for repeal, while Democrats have increasingly joined the liberal call for expanding the law.
More than two-thirds of Republicans in the Gallup survey supported repealing the law entirely and a similar percentage of Democrats wanted to keep it as it is or expand it.
The opinions of partisans matter in part because they tend to dominate party primaries in most states. Some members of Congress — particularly Democratic senators from Republican-leaning states — have backed the idea of new legislation to try to fix some of the Affordable Care Act’s problems. But the hardening of partisan views on both sides suggests that the compromises necessary to pass any such legislation would be a tough sell, especially in the House in an election year.