Obamacare has serious public opinion and awareness problems, according to new Gallup poll

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Released today, a Gallup poll found that overall 81 percent of Americans are aware of the individual mandate provisions in the Affordable Care Act. Yet uninsured Americans who are most directly affected by the new requirement  are far less likely to be aware of the mandate, with only 56 percent in the know.  This compares to 85 percent of Americans with insurance.

Broken down by income level, 89 percent of upper-income Americans report being familiar with the law, while 62 percent of lower-income Americans feel very or somewhat aware of it.  Among the uninsured, the vast majority lack coverage due to costs or employment status. Just seven percent claim they lack insurance because they are healthy and don’t need it.

While this June 20-24 Gallup poll asked people whether they were aware of the insurance mandate, it didn’t ask whether people were aware that the law may provide subsidies for low- and middle-income Americans to access coverage.

From previous polls, it appears that even fewer people know about those provisions.  According to a poll by the Democratic polling firm Lake Research Partners in November 2012, nearly 80 percent of uninsured Americans who are likely to qualify for subsidies weren’t aware of new coverage options.

Overall, Gallup reported Thursday that Americans see Obamacare more negatively than positively, with 44 percent approving and 52 percent disapproving.  Although Republicans and Democrats fall into expected corners on the law, Independents follow the national average: 41 percent see the law favorably, and 53 percent unfavorably.  Even the uninsured aren’t sold: just over half approve of reforms.

Asked in a different way, respondents in this poll believe Obamacare will make the nation’s healthcare situation worse for themselves and the country.  While 22 percent believe the law will improve their family’s health care situation, 42 percent believe it will make their situation worse. Likewise, while 34 percent of respondents feel Obamacare will help the nation, 47 percent see the law as leading in the wrong direction.

While the uninsured are slightly more likely to think that the law will improve health care for themselves and the US, even they are divided: 37 percent of the uninsured feel positively about the law, and 34 percent feel negatively about it.  Overall, 42 percent of Democrats believe Obamacare will not make much of a difference, and 16 percent feel it will make their family’s health care situation worse.

These findings are consistent with other recent polls, demonstrating that the Affordable Care Act has a serious public opinion problem on its hands as it struggles toward full implementation.

Karen Cyphers, PhD, is a public policy consultant, researcher, and mother to three daughters.