Since February 2009, the Kaiser Family Foundation has released a monthly health tracking poll examining public perception of the health care debate. The poll is widely considered to be one of the most authoritative surveys of opinion about the health law; it frequently generates headlines in major news outlets, and, over the summer, briefly helped convince supporters of the law that the public might finally be warming to it. The most recent poll, though, doesn't have much in the way of good news for supporters of the law. Although it suggests that the health care overhaul may not have been as influential in last week's election as early exit polls suggested—Kaiser reports that health care was only the fourth most important issue, while some early exit polling put it in second place—it indicates that the voters who were concerned with health care were unhappy about it. According to Politico, a majority of voters who said health care was a top voting issue voted Republican. Meanwhile, the number of people who think the health care law will improve their lives is at a record low:
Only 25 percent of the public now say they expect their own families to be better off under the reform law, the lowest response since Kaiser began asking the question in February 2009. Another 31 percent say they'll be worse off and 34 percent think it won't make much difference.
That's 65 percent who expect to see no benefit from the law. Democrats have frequently chalked statistics like these up to messaging failures, arguing that if the public understood the benefits, which polls show the public likes, they'd appreciate the law more. So Democrats have continually amped up efforts to explain those benefits, forgetting that costs are involved as well. But costs matter too. Just because you can get the public to say they like the law's benefits doesn't mean they think those benefits are worth putting up with other parts of the law that the public likes less.