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Posted at 10:18 AM ET, 01/26/2011

Americans do not want repeal

By Ezra Klein


I've not really jumped on the poll showing that more Americans want to expand health-care reform than repeal it, as "expand" could really mean anything. Perhaps voters have been convinced that the mythical Republican alternatives do more than the Affordable Care Act does, though that's not been true for any policy the Republicans have advanced so far. But this poll (pdf) from the Kaiser Family Foundation ends my skepticism:

When it comes to what lawmakers should do next on health reform, Americans' views are all over the map: 28 percent want to expand the law, 19 percent leave it as is, 23 percent repeal it and replace it with a Republican-sponsored alternative, and 20 percent repeal it and not replace it.

Support for a "Republican-sponsored alternative" is considerably lower than support for "expand the law," and the inclusion of "Republican-sponsored alternative" means that "expand the law" actually means something akin to expanding the law. And so there you have it: 47 percent want to keep or expand health-care reform, and 43 percent want to repeal and/or replace. The "repeals" do not have it.

And that's not the only interesting part of the poll: As Greg Sargent notes, "when asked what they want done with the law if repeal fails, only 33 percent of Americans support cutting off funding to gut the law, versus 62 percent who disapprove of this course of action."

By Ezra Klein  | January 26, 2011; 10:18 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform, Polls  
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It is somewhat appropriate to say “Instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let’s fix what needs fixing and move forward” as the President did last night; however, the doing is easier than the saying. The current question is a simple one: is it easier to repeal the entire PPACA and reinstate its prudent and effective snippets or is it easier to amend the gigantic PPACA, whose "vagueness of wording is aggravated by prolixity and profusion of statutes, regulations, and administrative machinery, and by manifold cross-references to interrelated enactments and rules."? [borrowing the quote from Keyishian v. Board of Regents]

Those who already have a detailed understanding of the inner-workings of the PPACA probably favor amendment while those who are not members of the trial lawyers' association likely favor repeal/replace.

Personally, I'd be happy either way. Some action, though, is needed soon in order to prevent the PPACA from destroying what's left of the job market.

Posted by: rmgregory | January 26, 2011 10:50 AM | Report abuse

"47 percent want to keep or expand health-care reform, and 43 percent "

Of course if the margin of error is larger than 2% you could say that equal numbers want repeal vs keep. If it's over 2% you could claim that a larger number want repeal than replace.

Posted by: wiredog | January 26, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, it's a poll with Americans as the sample. Not registered voters, and not likely voters. Do you have any doubt the "repeals" have it using those sample populations? Politicians won't put much weight in this poll.

Posted by: besnyder1 | January 26, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse

wiredog, except that the people that want repeal and no replacement are fools. The system we had before was awful and was going to bankrupt us. Whether you think we should have single payer, a government-free market, or something sustainable in between, the system we had is not worth returning to. At least the people saying we should repeal and replace have a legitimate position, but when you take out the fools, they're left as a tiny minority.

rmgregory, it took decades to pass a major bill like the ACA, and two years of hearings, debate, compromise, etc. to get the actual bill to the President's desk. And even then, it barely made it. Unless our political system has changed in some serious way since the ACA passed, it is way easier to muster the votes for some tweaks than it would be to A) repeal it, and B) put together a replacement bill that could pass and be signed by the President. In fact, it's nearly infinitely easier, since the President will veto any repeal.

Posted by: MosBen | January 26, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Take note that the 47% keep-expand percentage here is really a low-end outlier compared to other polls that offer such alternatives. The recent AP-GfK poll put that at 62%. That's up from 57% in October for the population and 51% even for likely voters.

I'm skeptical that there could be serious confusion about what "expand" or "do more" mean. CNN in Dec found that 43% favored the law while 13% said it was "not liberal enough" = 56% (up from 52% in March). Certainly no confusion there about the partisan distinction.

This is important context both in terms of the numbers and the trends.

Posted by: jtmiller42 | January 26, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

The poll is meaningless, unless the question were to be posed this way:

If you were to find out that the CBO report that claimed the health care law would reduce the deficit was proven to be full of false estimates, and the health care law as passed by Democrats is in fact bound to add hundreds of millions of dollars to the deficit, THEN 'what would you like to see Congress do when it comes to the health care law'?

Pose the question that way, and come back and tell me what the results are.

Posted by: dbw1 | January 26, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

99% of those who want it repealed can't actually explain why they want it repealed outside of talking points given to them by Fox News

It is pathetic

Posted by: Bious | January 26, 2011 11:10 PM | Report abuse

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