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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

How Many Would Repeal ‘Obamacare’?

Mitt Romney says “most Americans want to get rid of” President Obama’s two-year-old health care law. Is he right? That depends on which poll-taker is asking the question, and how it’s worded.

Romney made the assertion at a rally in Louisiana on March 23, marking the second anniversary of the president signing the law. He’s not alone — we’ve heard others make the same statement. But some polls show otherwise.

For example, a Bloomberg News national poll of 1,002 adults taken March 8 through March 11 asked the question this way: “Turning to the health care law passed last year, what is your opinion of the law?” The poll gave three choices, with the following results:

  • 37 percent agreed with the statement, “It should be repealed.”
  • 46 percent agreed, “It may need small modifications, but we should see how it works.”
  • 11 percent said, “It should be left alone.”
  • 6 percent were not sure.

An earlier Gallup Poll of 1,040 adults, conducted Feb. 20-21, asked the question this way: “If a Republican is elected president in this November’s election, would you strongly favor, favor, oppose, or strongly oppose him repealing the healthcare law when he takes office?” Gallup reported these results:

  • 26 percent “strongly favor.”
  • 21 percent “favor.”
  • 24 percent “oppose.”
  • 20 percent “strongly oppose.”

That makes 47 percent of respondents who said they favor repeal to some degree — not “most.” That’s more than the 44 percent who oppose repeal (with 9 percent presumably unsure or declining to answer). But a plurality isn’t a majority, and based on this poll, it’s not accurate to say “most” favor repeal.

On the other hand, there are polls showing majorities in favor of repeal.

A survey of 1,000 “likely voters” was conducted March 17-18 by Rasmussen Reports, for example. Rasmussen reported that 56 percent “at least somewhat favor” repeal, including 46 percent “who strongly favor it.”

Not all adults tell poll-takers they are likely to vote, however. So the Rasmussen poll doesn’t cover all adults. And Rasmussen’s polling in the 2010 elections tended to show Republicans doing several points better than they actually did on Election Day.

Nevertheless, the Rasmussen results are in line with a poll by Quinnipiac University, whose 2010 polling much more accurately predicted the election outcomes that year.

During Feb. 14-20, that poll asked 2,605 registered voters the question, “Do you think Congress should try to repeal the health care law, or should they let it stand?” And it reported these results:

  • 52 percent said “should repeal it.”
  • 39 percent said “should let it stand.”
  • 10 percent were listed as saying “don’t know” or giving no answer.

(The total adds up to 101 percent, but that’s due to rounding each figure to the nearest whole number.)

So, Romney and others would be correct to say that some polls show most Americans — or at least most voters — favor repeal. But not all polls.

— Brooks Jackson