Public support for the Affordable Care Act narrowly notched a new high in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, while criticism of Barack Obama's handling of the law's rollout – although still substantial -- has eased from its peak last fall. Views hardly are enthusiastic: With the year's sign-up deadline upon us, Americans split on Obamacare, 49 percent in support, 48 percent opposed. But that compares with a 40-57 percent negative rating after the initial failure of the federal enrollment website last November.
The polling consensus on the Affordable Care Act has been predictable for quite a while. "Obamacare" isn't popular, though the "Affordable Care Act" tends to fare better. Most Americans are convinced they don't like the law, but more detailed surveys show people like what's in the law quite a bit.
But today, a poll showed something new: in at least one survey, the ACA is no longer underwater.
When was the last time a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed "Obamacare" with more supporters than opponents? Never. It's why this poll seems to be generating quite a bit of attention this afternoon: it's not only new, it's different.
And while it's understandable that results like these will give a well-timed morale boost to those hoping to see the law succeed, I'd recommend at least some caution.
For one thing, it's one poll. As everyone should know by now, it's better to look at aggregate polling averages and trend lines, rather than over-interpret the results of a single survey. And in the case of the ACA, there's been an uptick in support over the last couple of months, but it's only a few points and it's still not close to a majority.
For another, I put together the above chart showing ABC/Washington Post data going back to August 2009, a few weeks before President Obama delivered his speech on health care to a joint session of Congress. As the image hopefully makes clear, there have been a few peaks and valleys over the last four-plus years, and while the new data is the first time supporters have outnumbered opponents, the same pollster has shown the two points grow awfully close before, so the new figures aren't that shocking.
That said, looking at all of the recent developments, Republicans have reason to feel discoursed. ACA enrollments are surging; the number of Americans without insurance is dropping; and nearly all of the polls show the health care law getting progressively more popular, not less.
Remember how giddy conservatives seemed four months ago, certain that "Obamacare" was crashing and burning? It's likely that was the ACA's nadir -- a point that probably won't be repeated as the system grows stronger.