The individual mandate, a requirement in the Affordable Care Act that individuals buy private health insurance or pay a fine, is still very unpopular according to the newest Kaiser Family Foundation poll. According to the poll 63 percent have a somewhat or very unfavorable opinion of the individual mandate, while only 35 percent have a very or somewhat favorable opinion of it.
The poll also found that the individual mandate was one of the most cited reasons for why people don’t like the overall law.
The fact that the individual mandate has been unpopular since it was proposed and remains unpopular two years after its adoption shouldn’t be news. Yet early this month many different supporters of the Affordable Care Act cited results from a poorly written CNN/ORG poll question to claim the public now supports the individual mandate. That CNN/ORC poll found that 52 percent support the provision requiring all Americans to get insurance, while 47 percent opposed. The CNN/ORG poll language, however, left out any mention of a fine, penalty or punishment for not getting insurance.
Wording of the CNN/ORC poll question:
As you may know, the health care bill passed in 2010 includes a provision that will require all Americans who do not have health insurance to get it. Do you favor or oppose that provision?
Wording of the KFF poll question:
15. Next, I’m going to read you several elements of the health reform law. As I read each one, please tell me whether you feel very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable about it. First, (INSERT AND RANDOMIZE; OBSERVE FORM SPLITS). (READ FOR FIRST ITEM, THEN AS NECESSARY: Would you say you feel very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable about that?)
a. The law will require nearly all Americans to have health insurance by 2014 or else pay a fine
Of course people are more likely to say they support an ideal if you don’t mention a critical aspect of concept that is the reason most people have opposed it. But that does not produce an accurate reflection of public opinion.
It is always possible that at some point in the future, potentially after the law is implemented, a majority may come to support the individual mandate. But currently that is definitely not the case.