Republican efforts to craft a new health care bill just hit another roadblock: An avalanche of public polling data dropped Wednesday, showing support for the legislation is under 20 percent.
That’s bad enough, but it’s not just the topline numbers that are near rock-bottom. Few voters think the bill will make the health care system or their own care better. And many of the policy changes in the various versions of GOP health legislation — like decreasing federal funding for Medicaid — are profoundly unpopular.
The dreadful round of polling represents more than just another obstacle for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who’s attempting to cobble together a bill that will capture enough votes to pass. The polling data has become a talking point among senators in both parties who are either opposed to the measure — or wary of passing a law with such little public support.
Separate surveys from NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist, USA Today/Suffolk University and Quinnipiac University — all released on Wednesday — show fewer than one-in-five voters back the GOP push to repeal and replace Obamacare. They were all conducted prior to McConnell’s decision to pull the bill on Tuesday — but it’s a jaw-dropping lack of support for major legislation that, earlier this week, the GOP-controlled Congress seemed poised to send to President Donald Trump’s desk before the Fourth of July.
In the NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll, only 18 percent of registered voters approve of the health care plan Senate Republicans have proposed, far fewer than the 57 percent who disapprove.
There is room for the bill’s support to grow, but the poll underscores the failure of Trump and congressional Republicans to sell the effort to their own base thus far. While 24 percent of voters overall say they haven’t heard enough about it to have an opinion, a whopping 39 percent of Republicans haven’t heard enough about it — well more than the 13 percent of Democrats and 17 percent of independents who say the same.
Only 20 percent of voters overall approve of the way congressional Republicans are handling health care, and Republicans are mostly split: 42 percent approve, versus 36 percent who disapprove.
The Quinnipiac University poll is nearly identical to Marist’s survey: 16 percent of registered voters approve of the Republican health care plan to replace Obamacare, and 58 percent disapprove. The numbers among Republicans are similar, too: 37 percent approve, 23 percent disapprove and 40 percent are undecided. By comparison, only 11 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of independents didn’t express an opinion about the GOP health bill.
Opposition to the bill is stout. Nearly half of all voters, 48 percent, say they strongly disapprove of the measure; only 6 percent strongly approve of it.
That means selling the bill won’t be easy. Far more voters, 41 percent, say their health insurance costs would go up if the bill is passed and enacted than the one-in-10 who say their costs would decrease. Only 16 percent of GOP voters think their health care will get cheaper under the bill.
And the Quinnipiac poll shows large majorities disapprove of decreasing federal funding for Medicaid (71 percent) and cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood (61 percent), two of the most pressing concerns among the more moderate GOP senators who have expressed reservations about the Senate bill.
The most striking headline comes from the USA Today/Suffolk University poll: Only 12 percent of Americans back the Senate bill, compared to 45 percent who oppose it and 40 percent who didn’t have an opinion.
There’s little public confidence in Trump or congressional Republicans on the issue, however, which threatens any effort to build support among the undecided. Forty-three percent of Americans, the poll shows, trust congressional Democrats most to protect them and their families’ interest in the health care debate. Only 19 percent trust Trump most, and 10 percent trust congressional Republicans.
It’s not just the public, media polls that could push Republicans away from uniting around a bill. The American Medical Association, which opposes the measure, this week released surveys conducted in a number of states that are home to fence-sitting senators — Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio and West Virginia — that showed little support for the bill and its provisions.
To hammer home the point, the AMA hired two separate polling firms to conduct the surveys, Public Opinion Strategies and Voter/Consumer Research, that work for Republican campaigns. (Public Opinion Strategies conducted four of the five surveys — excepting West Virginia, where it lists Sen. Shelley Moore Capito as a client.)
The paltry polling support for the GOP’s Obamacare repeal efforts has been exploited by both parties to drive their desired outcomes. Earlier this month, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) dismissed the bill passed by the House in May by citing its poor poll numbers.
“The House bill is dead in the Senate,” Graham told CBS News. “Ten percent of support by the American people for the House bill. The House members are mad at us for not taking up health care. Well, send us a bill that will get 12 percent of support.”
Democrats know Republicans can pass a bill all by themselves in both chambers, but they are using the public polls to apply pressure to battleground-state GOP senators.
“The Republican bill is rotten at the core. The American people are not for big tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans — nor are they for dramatically cutting their health care,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday, after McConnell’s announcement that the bill wouldn’t be on the Senate floor this week. “That’s why the bill has about 17 percent popularity in America, and even Trump voters don’t like it. That is not going to change with any little tweak that wins over this senator or that.”
Schumer’s 17-percent comment referred to a previous Quinnipiac poll, released earlier this month. After Wednesday, the numbers are even lower.