I think the best way to understand the seeming contradiction in polling which both shows very low approval for the Affordable Care Act yet very low support for its repeal is to think of it like a tonsillectomy.
Imagine our entire health care system as a body, and back in 2010 Democrats decided the best treatment for persistent throat infections (the uninsured and a broken insurance market) was to undergo surgery to remove the tonsils.
There were all sorts of very different reasons people opposed this plan. Some conservatives claimed there wasn’t a problem that needed fixing. Others opposed it because they didn’t think it would actually work or thought it could make things worse by creating new post surgical complications.
Some people on the left were against the plan because other countries have proven there are better and much cheaper treatments we should have gone with (simply expanding public insurance). Others agreed with the basic idea but didn’t trust the overpriced and dishonest people being hired TO the perform the procedure (the private for-profit insurers).
Some were just scared of change.
But now that we’ve undergone the surgery, a majority of the country thinks it would be idiotic to undergo yet another expensive surgery with a goal of trying to put these dead tonsils back in. This doesn’t inherently mean the country thinks the tonsillectomy was a good treatment plan, it just means that the public thinks we need to accept that it happened and trying to reverse it would cause even more problems.
Republicans will probably benefit significantly in this election from the fact that there is no chance they could repeal the law regardless of how well they do at the ballot box. It lets them focus on the fact that Democrats actually did something unpopular while they merely talk about a vague unpopular “solution” everyone knows is going nowhere.
Photo by Jim Best under Creative Commons license