Recent NBC/WSJ Health Care Polling Results

Our recent work for the NBC/WSJ Poll has yielded some interesting findings on the topic of health care/the Affordable Care Act.

Here are some quick thoughts about what struck me about this data:

  1. As it has been for years, attitudes about the new health care law are remarkably stable.   And, as it has been for years, the intensity is against the new law.
  2. Here’s a number that popped off the page that demonstrates this point about the Affordable Care Act never generating support among what should be its core supporters.   Among the 26% of respondents who are dissatisfied with their medical care and health care coverage, only 10% say the new health care law will have a positive impact on them and their family, with 41% saying it will have a negative impact (43% say it will not have much of an impact either way).   This result is worse than among the 73% who are satisfied with their care and coverage (13% positive/26% negative/57% not much impact on me and my family).
  3. In fact, among the ten sub-groups most dissatisfied with their current medical care and coverage, only one sub-group (Latinos) believes the new law will be more likely to have a positive rather than a negative impact on them and their family.
  4. Importantly, when asked about personal impact on them and their family, a majority (53%) say the new health care law will have “not much of an impact either way.”  This may well suggest Americans might be open to changing their views if the new law does have a positive personal impact on them and their family.
  5. As we count down to the October 1st opening of the exchanges, one does not envy the job ahead as the targets of this effort (the uninsured) are, of course, among the least familiar with the new law.  Among the six sub-groups who are the most likely to say they are uninsured, between 67% and 80% of each sub-group say they do not understand the law.
  6. Today, only 32% of the uninsured say they would be likely to sign up for coverage through an exchange.
  7. Lack of familiarity goes far beyond the uninsured, however, as only 30% of Americans say they understand the law very or pretty well, 35% say only somewhat well, and a full 34% say they do not understand the law very well at all.   If there is good news for supporters of the Affordable Care Act, it is that those most familiar with the law are also less negative (42% health care law is a good idea/45% bad idea) than those who do not understand the law very well at all (17% health care law is a good idea/44% bad idea).
  8. While Americans may not know every detail of the law, in the short term, attitudes may be relatively stable and difficult to change.   We did an open-end question asking people why they believe the new law is either a good idea or a bad idea.  The results are generally thoughtful, detailed, and frequently reflect the partisan divide in attitudes that have always existed about the law, which all contribute to making a change in attitudes difficult.

We have the great privilege of polling for NBC/WSJ and CNBC.   In both September surveys (more coming, CNBC to be released late this week), we designed a series of measures as a baseline so we can carefully track attitudes over time as the implementation of the Affordable Care Act moves forward.

And, here’s the overall point – we are moving quickly now from a health care policy debate to what I call the “health care reality outcome” portion of the debate when Americans’ attitudes will be determined based on their assessments of the new health care law and its consequences to them personally.

Here is the Interview Schedule with all the related questions  and some selected charts and tables of data we thought were especially interesting.