A faction of Tea Party Republicans led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) essentially forced a government shutdown to pressure Democrats to delay or defund the health reform law. But that dramatic move hasn’t done anything to convince Americans that Obamacare is a policy they should oppose. According to a new poll, Obamacare is actually gaining in popularity at the same time as the Republican Party has taken extreme measures to take a stand against it.
A new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll finds that 38 percent of Americans say Obamacare is a good idea, which represents a 7-point jump from last month. It’s the third-highest popularity rating for Obamacare — which typically doesn’t poll well as a whole, even though Americans tend to support its individual provisions — since the health law was first enacted.
The poll also finds that 50 percent of voters don’t want to eliminate funding for the health reform law, and the vast majority are opposed to tying Obamacare to the ongoing negotiations over the government shutdown. Just 23 percent of Americans say they want to continue the current shutdown to sabotage the health law.
The government shutdown ultimately didn’t do anything to stop the major provisions of the health law from taking effect, and actually ended up coinciding with the open enrollment period for Obamacare’s new insurance marketplaces. Although the sites for the marketplaces have had some ongoing technological glitches, they’ve also received a considerable amount of interest during their first two weeks. A recent poll found that seven percent of Americans say that someone in their household has already tried to sign up for health insurance under Obamacare, which could represent up to 20 million people. That personal experience with the law could be influencing Americans’ attitudes about it.
The new findings from the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll track with surveys that were conducted right before the government shut down at the beginning of this month. In September, one poll found that just seven percent of Republican voters favored delaying or defunding Obamacare as the best strategy for moving forward with the health law. Another poll released last month found that even the Americans who oppose the health law don’t actually want to sabotage it; instead, most voters are interested in finding ways to make it work.
And as the shutdown has dragged on, there have been some signs that mainstream GOPers are breaking from the Tea Party’s far-right strategy to take the government hostage over Obamacare. Some Republican lawmakers have been distancing themselves from the House GOP’s demands, pointing out that “defunding Obamacare did not work” and it’s time for a more realistic strategy. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) recently expressed frustration with congressional Republicans for being so focused on defunding Obamacare, noting that her state needs the funding appropriated under the health law to expand Medicaid. And across the country, veteran Republicans are becoming fed up with the shutdown, accusing the Tea Party of being too intransigent and creating a “distraction” with the fight over Obamacare.
On MSNBC on Friday afternoon, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) responded to the news that the health reform law is gaining popularity by suggesting that “no one has done more to strengthen Obamacare” than Ted Cruz. King pointed out that Cruz’s “maniacal crusade” to shut down the government over health reform has given the anti-Obamacare movement a bad name, so even the Americans who would have otherwise opposed the law are now shying away from being associated with Cruz.