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Public support for Republican health care plan reaches new depths

The rules of politics suggest elected officials who intend to stay on the public's good side should steer clear of a bills that enjoy 12% support.
Image: U.S. President Trump celebrates with Republican House members after healthcare bill vote at the White House in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump (C) celebrates with Congressional Republicans in the Rose Garden of the White House after the House of Representatives approved...

The Kaiser Family Foundation has been publishing regular reports on the Affordable Care Act's public support for several years, and last week, it found something new. For the first time, a narrow majority of the country -- 51%, to be exact -- expressed a favorable view of the health care reform law. This is roughly in line with other polling showing "Obamacare" reaching new heights in popularity in recent months.

It's against this backdrop that Republicans are trying to replace an increasingly popular law with a strikingly unpopular alternative.

Just 12% of Americans support the Senate Republican health care plan, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds, amid a roiling debate over whether the GOP will deliver on its signature promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.In the survey, taken Saturday through Tuesday, a 53% majority say Congress should either leave the law known as Obamacare alone or work to fix its problems while keeping its framework intact.

The USA Today report added that while the vast majority of self-identified Republicans said they support repealing the ACA, only 26% of them expressed support for their own party's health care legislation.

The results are roughly in line with a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, also released today, which found only 17% of Americans support the Republican bill. [Update: A Quinnipiac poll, also released this afternoon, shows the GOP plan with 16% support. Fox News' new poll puts the number at 17%]

It's difficult to think of another major legislative initiative, attempted by either party in recent years, that's faced this kind of reception.

There is an explanation for this. For one thing, the Republican legislation is genuinely horrible. For another, GOP leaders, including Donald Trump, have made practically no effort to defend or promote the bill on the merits. Republicans are happy to criticize "Obamacare," and they're eager to warn against single payer, but ask them to explain why the nation would be better off under the GOP proposal and conservative partisans have very little to say.

What's unclear, however, is whether -- and to what degree -- Republican policymakers actually care about the connection between their agenda and the will of the election. The basic rules of politics in a democracy suggest elected officials who intend to stay on the public's good side should steer clear of a high-profile, life-or-death piece of legislation that enjoys 12% support.

Those who try to rewrite those rules are taking a serious risk.