This is a significant story because the defection of moderate and conservative Democrats has dragged the overall number of Democrats who support the legislation to below 60%.
Just after the law was passed in 2010, fully 74 percent of moderate and conservative Democrats supported the federal law making changes to the health-care system. But just 46 percent express support in the new poll, down 11 points in the past year. Liberal Democrats, by contrast, have continued to support the law at very high levels – 78 percent in the latest survey. Among the public at large, 42 percent support and 49 percent oppose the law, retreating from an even split at 47 percent apiece last July.
The shift among the Democratic party’s large swath in the ideological middle– most Democrats in this poll, 57 percent, identify as moderate or conservative – is driving an overall drop in party support for the legislation: Just 58 percent of Democrats now support the law, down from 68 percent last year and the lowest since the law was enacted in 2010. This broader drop mirrors tracking surveys by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation and Fox News polls, both of which found Democratic support falling earlier this year.
Politically, the downward shift among moderate and conservative Democrats may be inconsequential. Senate Democrats have ignored more than three dozen House Republicans efforts to repeal the law, and even if they lost control of the chamber in the 2014 midterm elections Obama would surely veto any attempt to undo his signature legislative achievement.
But persistent skepticism of Obamacare continues to pose an obstacle to getting key parts of the law off the ground. The Obama administration is planning to exert enormous education efforts in the next 12 months to persuade uninsured Americans to sign up for new health insurance exchanges, and it’s unclear how much political opposition will discourage people from participating.
As far as implementing the law, this won’t make a fig of difference. But it may hurt the Democrats badly in the 2014 elections. For that to happen, though, the GOP is going to have to continue making Obamacare an issue with the public. There’s a possibility that, after the first of the year, there will be Obamacare burnout — people will get tired of hearing about how bad the legislation is and may want the GOP to pitch in and fix it.
That won’t happen, of course, but keeping Obamacare a viable political issue — and to keep alive the hope for repeal — will take a concerted effort. Perhaps more importantly, an alternative to Obamacare must be developed so that repeal is followed by “replace.”
Giving those moderate dems a reason to vote for Republicans may be the key to increasing GOP control in the House and taking the Senate.