The Topline: The Art of Repeal

Health care bills moves votes. They cost seats. They start waves. The Democrats’ two runs at health care reform ended with Republican gains of 54 seats in 1994 and 63 seats in 2010. In the latter case, Massachusetts was the canary in the coal mine, as health care helped propel Scott Brown past Martha Coakley and into Ted Kennedy’s (errr, the people’s) seat in the Senate. That was the beginning of the red tide which has rolled across the country in the years since, with Republican electoral wins piling up at all levels of government. Certainly, other factors were at play, but health care played a major role. The polling on the GOP’s American Health Care Act suggests that Republicans run similar risks in 2018 over their repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The original plan -- repeal an unpopular bill and replace it “with something terrific,” to be announced later -- seemed like a winner for the years Republicans were voting over and over again for symbolic repeal measures. More voters opposed Obamacare than supported it from 2009 to late 2016, so opposition seemed safe.


Credit: Huffington Post Pollster

But a curious thing started to happen right around Election Day 2016: Obamacare started getting more popular, even as Republicans finally came within reach of ending it. It now averages 48 percent support in recent polls, with 43 percent opposed. By contrast, the GOP replacement is averaging a -16 percent net approval, and it may be heading even lower. The latest poll, from Quinnipiac out yesterday, found that only 17 percent Americans support the new legislation. That is a lower support level than any of the 498 national polls taken on Obamacare since 2009.


Credit: Huffington Post Pollster.

President Trump’s efforts on behalf of the bill do not appear to be helping. Just 29 percent approve of his handling of health care, according to the Quinnipiac poll; 37 percent approve of his job performance overall, compared to around half for Obama on the eve of the Affordable Care Act. Crucially, Quinnipiac found that Trump is now losing the support of his base: white voters without a college degrees. Trump net favorability with these voters dropped a remarkable 19 points from their last poll,  and only 22 percent of non-college whites approve of the GOP health care bill.

The friction that could burn Republicans is between appeasing independent voters to win reelection versus winning the vote of the House’s most conservative members to pass the bill. Support for the bill among independents is a paltry 14 percent in the Quinnipiac poll. Moderate Republicans in competitive districts need these independents to win reelection, and moving the bill further right could make these numbers even worse. But a big chunk of the opposition in the House is from the House Freedom Caucus, a group of the most conservative members of Congress who want to the bill moved exactly in that direction.

Among Republican voters, an unimpressive 41 percent support the bill, and 24 percent oppose it. So even while irritating independents, the bill does little to excite the base. And if it were to pass, it may make things worse. As TheUpshot showed, the bill disproportionately hurts voters who supported Trump in 2016. Adding to the dismal math, the intensity is all in the opposition, with 43 percent strongly disapprove of the GOP bill, compared to just 6 percent who strongly approve. November 2018 is a ways off, but with support weaker even than Obamacare was, it’s easy to see how this could work against Republican gains in 2018.

It’s hard for Trump to twist many arms on such an unpopular bill when his own approval numbers are so low. Indeed, Trump seems already to be distancing himself from the effort, and throwing House Speaker Ryan under the truck. Trump has given Congress an ultimatum: vote today, or be stuck with Obamacare. Polls show the public may prefer the latter.

The Crosstabs

Trump’s approval rating is still historically low. Here’s Gallup (39 percent), and the Huffpollster average (43 percent).

This neat tool from The Crosstab lets you compare Trump’s approval to that of past presidents at the same point in their terms. Here’s what that looks like right now.


Credit: The Crosstab

More from that Quinnipiac poll: A majority of voters in each party say no, Trump should not keep tweeting from his personal account.

That same poll shows that 70 percent of Americans do not believe Trump’s so far unsupported wiretap claims. Republicans are split nearly evenly on the matter.

Pew finds that 91 percent of the 115th congress describe themselves as Christian, and a majority of states have delegations that are entirely Christian. Fun Fact: What do you get when you bring together two Buddhists, one Hindu, and a Jew? The Hawaiian congressional delegation.

Pew also finds a growing ideological gap between generations; Millennials and Gen Xers have large numbers of liberal Democrats, while Boomers and the Silent Generation lay claim to the most conservative Republicans.

Researchers at Yale have developed a model that estimates public opinion on climate change down to the state, congressional district, and county levels. The New York Times took this data and pulled out six very colorful maps detailing how Americans feel about climate change.

Huffpollster rounds up the polling on the French presidential election, which shows Marine LePen winning the first round but losing in the run-off.

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, pollsters did pretty well in catching populist Geert Wilders’ late slide in support -- a drop some linked to the unpopularity of Donald Trump.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, moderate Republican whose numbers have echoed Charlie Baker’s, is showing weaker reelection numbers against a generic Democrat. There has not been any public polling on Baker since February, so we don’t know if the trend will hold here.

Welcome to Pollsters: The Next Generation featuring Ms. Porter’s second grade class. Sadly this survey is now closed (but not before this writer determined she is a soup/lion/non-farmer…)

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Because we know you haven’t had enough health care yet: Nate Silver at 538 has estimated support for the GOP’s American Health Care Act down to the congressional district level. Using figures derived from a YouGov poll, he found only 80 out of the 435 districts where modeled support for the bill led opposition. At the end of the article is a searchable, sortable table of estimated AHCA support in each district. Surprising nobody, estimated opposition greatly outpaces support in all 9 Massachusetts congressional districts.

538.PNG Credit: FiveThirtyEight