Politifact Parses on ACA Popularity

As the page turns in January from the Obama administration to the Trump administration, one of the few things that can be said with a high degree of certainty is that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act will be one of the most highly anticipated debates in Washington. President-elect Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans made repealing Obamacare a virtual sacred vow.

While there is ample evidence of how unpopular the law was as Election Day approached, Politifact Wisconsin managed to find room for nit-pickery in assessing this November 9 declaration by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan:

“This health care law is not a popular law.”

Politifact used a series of pre-election polls to make the case that the country is mostly split in its opinion on Obamacare. The piece concedes the polls show disapproval of the health care law by a narrow margin so they deem Ryan’s statement “mostly true.” For whatever reason, the piece, which was published nine days after the election, did not use election day exit polling in its analysis. It tells a much different story.

An exit poll by NBC News showed that only 18% of voters characterized the ACA as “about right” 45% of voters described it as “going too far” and 31% described it as not going far enough. However you analyze that combined 76 percent, a law that garners 18% “about right” can be called “unpopular” without qualification.

The Washington Post in its analysis of the exit polls described Obamacare as “the wind beneath Trump’s wings:”

 The late October announcement that the average premium for people in the federal insurance exchange of the Affordable Care Act would rise by an average of 25 percent landed like a lead balloon on a not-insignificant portion of the electorate.

Almost half of the electorate (47 percent) said they thought Obamacare “went too far.” Trump beat Clinton 83 percent to 13 percent among that group.

There are numerous variables to consider when trying to determine why Donald Trump was victorious on November 8. But exit polling answers on the issue make it clear that Obamacare was indeed unpopular when voters went to the polls on that day. Rather than employ that reality in its assessment of Ryan’s statement, Politifact Wisconsin chose instead to use earlier survey research which is now obsolete in the wake of actual votes cast.

Only Politifact Wisconsin knows their motive for not considering exit polling data in this conversation. But this much is clear: the omitted data gives Republicans a much stronger case for claiming a mandate for the repeal and replacement of Obamacare than do the earlier surveys cited in their analysis of Ryan’s statement.