To know is not to love: Familiarity with ObamaCare adversely related to approval

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The Obama administration and Affordable Care Act allies have spent much of the summer mounting a multimillion-dollar outreach campaign to raise awareness about the law, yet according to a Gallup poll that was released Thursday, these efforts have been largely in vain.

With the opening of health insurance exchanges coming in less than two months, more Americans still disapprove (49%) than approve (41%) of the Affordable Care Act.  Further, only 15% of respondents claim to be “very” familiar with the law, and another 35% feel they are “somewhat” informed.

Since late June, both approval and disapproval ratings for ObamaCare have fallen, each by three points. During this same time, however, the percent of folks with no opinion on the program have raised from 4% to 11%.

Today’s marks include a few other indicators of public disapproval with ObamaCare, namely, the ratio of Americans who are pessimistic versus optimistic about the impact of the law. Less than a quarter believe it will make their family’s healthcare situation better, and nearly four out of 10 feel that it will make it worse.  Comparatively, 35% say it will make the national healthcare situation better, and 44% say it will make it worse.  These results are basically unchanged since late June.

Even more importantly, familiarity with the law is adversely related to approval. Americans who say that they are very or somewhat familiar with ObamaCare are far more likely to disapprove of it (55%).  Among those who are not too familiar, or not at all familiar, 36% approve and 39% disapprove.

Young Americans who are between the ages of 18 and 34 are the least familiar with ObamaCare, but are also the most approving of it.   About 36% of young Americans are unfamiliar with the law, compared to 28% among Americans ages 35 to 54, and 26% among those over 55.

On average, 40% of young respondents expressed disapproval of the law, compared with 54% among those ages 35 to 54, and 51% among those over 55.

These findings are important considering that the success of the program largely hinges on young Americans enrolling in plans, as they are generally more healthy and bring overall health insurance premiums down.

From these findings, Gallup concludes that, “Currently, younger Americans know the least about this law, which may mean lower compliance with the individual mandate when that provision takes effect.”

And yet, if findings from this poll bear out, learning more about ObamaCare won’t be the fix that the administration has hoped for.

Karen Cyphers, PhD, is a public policy researcher, political consultant, and mother to three daughters. She can be reached at