A key argument of proponents of this month's government shutdown was that Americans oppose Obamacare. On the net, they do. But the shutdown itself may have actually boosted the law's poll numbers, according to a new survey from Gallup.
The polling company completed a survey evaluating public perceptions of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. On the whole, Americans still oppose the law, which is set to go into full effect in January. But: slightly less than they did in August.
Americans' views of the Affordable Care Act are slightly more positive now than they were in August. Forty-five percent now approve of the law, while 50% disapprove, for a net approval score of -5. In June and August, net approval was slightly lower, at -8.
The most interesting details are buried a little bit deeper. For example, Gallup compared the August and October responses by political party. (The net approval — percent of each party that approves minus percent that disapproves — is shown at left.)
Republicans have always strongly opposed the law, but their opposition only grew by 2 percentage points over the course of the shutdown. Democrats have always strongly supported the law — but the net approval rose 14 points over the course of the shutdown. Most disconcerting to Republicans should be that third number: opposition to the law dropped by 8 percentage points among independents.
And then there are the age groups. The older the respondent, the less likely he or she was to support Obamacare. That correlates to political party to some extent; Republicans skew older. But as Slate's Matt Yglesias notes, there's also some irony. Those who are 65 and older already have access to much more direct and robust government-run healthcare through Medicare.
Gallup notes that this polling likely doesn't incorporate the poorly handled roll-out of the federal health insurance exchange. Which means, though, that the shift in polling largely reflects little more than the PR blitz surrounding the shutdown. That effort, broadly a political failure for Republicans, also undermined advocates' core proposition: that Americans dislike the law. A few more shutdowns and Obamacare could be the most popular law in history.