Yes, Obamacare's Approval Rating Surged Seven Points, But Don't Panic!

It’s not that Americans forget; it’s that they need to be often reminded of whatever gave them comfort or displeasure. It’s the typical cycle of societal waves that have run through this country’s history.


Right now, some on the right may be panicking over Obamacare’s approval numbers.  It’s gained seven points since the government shutdown.  Yet, we shouldn’t put too much faith in polls.  In fact, if we’ve learned anything since 2012, it’s that we should be more skeptical of polling data.  Yet, the new health care law’s popularity rose from 31% to 38% since Harry Reid and Obama decided to close the government.  So, it’s still highly unpopular.   Yet, Allahpundit at Hot Air wrote on October 10 that:

Rarely in recent polling has strong support for the law crossed 30 percent; only after the big SCOTUS ruling on the mandate last year did the data cross the mark — until now. What’s happening, I assume, is that tea-party brinksmanship to defund the law is actually driving lukewarm liberals to support the law more strongly in the name of partisanship. Which would be fine if there was a corresponding swell in opposition, whether strong or tepid. But there isn’t. The number who think the law’s a bad idea and who strongly feel that way is actually down from where it was four months ago. Again, that may be due less to the shutdown than to the honeymoon period from the law’s rollout, but either way, the public’s not rising up. What’s the timeframe on when they should before this strategy is declared a fizzle?


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The poll, which was conducted by NBC/WSJ, but as Allahpundit noted – it’s only one poll.  Yes, the Republican Party’s approval rating has hit a 20-year low.  Yes, they’re currently being blamed more for this shutdown at higher levels than the ’96 shutdown. But is Ted Cruz “discredited?”  NO!  Again, we have the arduous task to reminding people why we’re here.

First, let us not forget that Harry Reid talked Obama out of negotiating with Republicans on the eve of the shutdown.  The House GOP wanted a conference committee to resolve the crisis. Harry Reid turned them down.  Lastly, this began as a compromise.  The Republicans were willing to fund the government, with the stipulation that Obamacare be delayed.  Now, Reid has decided to reject the House deal to raise the debt ceiling. Who’s being intransigent here?  It’s not the Republicans.

Second, we’re thirteen months away from the next election.  Let’s simmer down.  That’s more than ample time for conservative to discuss the disastrous rollout of Obamacare – and there’s tons of ammo for messaging.


Oh, and let’s not forget that we outsourced the creation of to a Canadian company, which was fired last year from their own government health agency for incompetence.

CGI Federal’s parent company, Montreal-based CGI Group, was officially terminated in September 2012 by an Ontario government health agency after the firm missed three years of deadlines and failed to deliver the province’s flagship online medical registry.

Concerning the polls, let’s turn to liberal oracle Nate Silver.

Democrats face extremely unfavorable conditions in trying to regain the House.

Even if the shutdown were to have a moderate political impact — and one that favored the Democrats in races for Congress — it might not be enough for them to regain control of the U.S. House. Instead, Democrats face two major headwinds as they seek to win back Congress.

First, there are extremely few swing districts — only one-half to one-third as many as when the last government shutdown occurred in 1996. Some of this is because of partisan gerrymandering, but more of it is because of increasingly sharp ideological divides along geographic lines: between urban and rural areas, between the North and the South, and between the coasts and the interior of the United States.

So even if Democrats make significant gains in the number of votes they receive for the House, they would flip relatively few seats because of the way those votes are distributed. Most of the additional votes would come in districts that Democrats were already assured of winning, or where they were too far behind to catch up.

Consider that, between 2010 and 2012, Democrats went from losing the average congressional district by seven percentage points to winning it by one percentage point — an eight-point swing. And yet they added only eight seats in the House, out of 435 congressional districts.

In 2014, likewise, it will require not just a pretty good year for Democrats, but a wave election for them to regain the House. But wave elections in favor of the party that controls the White House are essentially unprecedented in midterm years. Instead, the president’s party has almost always lost seats in the House — or at best gained a handful.

One might be able to construct an argument for why the precedent could be violated. The pattern of the president’s party losing seats in the midterms has been very strong in the past — but political scientists aren’t quite sure why this is the case. One theory is that voters may elect members of Congress from the opposite party as a check on the president’s power. But if Congress instead is seen as the more powerful entity, voters might desire to curb its power instead.

Essentially, Democrats will have to persuade swing voters that having Republicans in charge of one chamber in one branch of government is more dangerous than yielding unilateral control of the government to the Democrats — at a time when President Obama is fairly unpopular, and when the signature initiative of the last Democratic Congress has been rolled out badly. Moreover, the voters that Democrats have to persuade about this are somewhat right of center, since the median congressional district is somewhat Republican-leaning and since the voters who reliably turn out at midterm elections are older, whiter, and otherwise more conservative than those who vote in general elections. It’s not an impossible task for Democrats, but the terrain is all uphill.

 The polling data on the shutdown is not yet all that useful, and we lack data on most important measures of voter preferences.

There is an array of polls that ask voters which party they blame for the shutdown. For the most part, they show Republicans taking somewhat more blame than Democrats, although the differences aren’t as stark as in 1995 and 1996.

The unanswered question is how this abstract notion of blame, on just one issue, might translate into tangible changes in voter preferences 13 months from now. Republicans are taking more blame for the shutdown — but they were extremely unpopular to begin with. How many people’s votes will be changed by the shutdown?

The best measure of this might be the generic congressional ballot, which measures overall preferences for Democrats or Republicans in congressional races around the country. However, very few generic ballot polls have been released since the shutdown began, and the exceptions are from dubious polling firms like Public Policy Polling and Rasmussen Reports.

That isn’t to say Republicans are without any reason for concern: The most recent Gallup poll shows a much sharper drop in Republican favorability ratings than in those for Democrats, which could presage a shift in the generic ballot.

But measures that put the parties head-to-head are much more valuable. I’ll be more convinced about the electoral downside for Republicans if and when we see such a shift in the generic ballot, or, say, in a number of Senate races around the country. (One irony is that while the House has been the focal point for GOP intransigence on the shutdown, Republican candidates for the Senate may have much more at risk, since the race for that chamber is much closer and contains a much higher proportion of competitive races.)


As Bryan Preston noted, “the real action next year will be in the Senate. That fight won’t be won or lost in this shutdown.”  David Freddoso added that, “the law’s opponents continue to oppose it. The ranks of its “strong” supporters are growing, even though (or perhaps because) very few people have actually tried the website or gotten insured so far.”

Let’s wait and see.  We shouldn’t be sprinting towards the exit yet.  As I mentioned in a previous post, both Republicans, Democrats, and Bill Clinton rebounded in their numbers after the ’96 shutdown. Americans know what the current shutdown is over, and citing the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jack Kelly; the Democrats have much more to lose.



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