Surprise! Obamacare is Actually Fairly Popular

| Mon Oct. 21, 2013 10:01 AM EDT

CNN has a new poll out today, and it shows that people are pretty unhappy with congressional Republicans right now. We already knew this, and I doubt that public irritation will last long, so I'm not all that interested. However, there's something else in the poll that mindful readers have known for a while but that has never gotten as much attention as it deserves: Opinions about Obamacare are less hostile than most polls suggest.

In one sense, I don't want to make too much of this. Only 41 percent of respondents favor Obamacare as it is, and that's a pretty feeble number. At the same time, when we talk about "opposition" to Obamacare, we're almost always talking about conservative opposition. And the plain fact is that conservative opposition is mostly limited to....conservatives. Everyone else either likes Obamacare or wants even more. (Or doesn't care.)

Add to this the well-known fact that nearly all the specific features of Obamacare (except the individual mandate) poll pretty strongly, and the picture that emerges is that most of the country favors Obamacare as either a good idea or a good first step. This explains why repeal of Obamacare generally polls poorly: many of the people who "oppose" Obamacare want to build on it, not repeal it. They're just disappointed that it's not a genuine single-payer program.

This means, of course, that tea partiers are right: once Obamacare is up and running, it will almost certainly become popular pretty quickly and will become impossible to repeal. That's why they were so desperate to take one last crack at defunding it. It's also why it's so important for Team Obama to fix their website problems ASAP. The truth is that Obamacare is reasonably popular and most people are willing to give it a chance to succeed. But that tolerance won't last forever.