When the first challenges to the health care mandate were brought, the legal theories were dismissed as frivolous. Despite numbers showing a majority against the mandate, few believed the mandate could be overturned, and the numbers had stagnated.
Then earlier this month a judge in Virginia held the mandate to be unconstitutional. Despite two contrary decisions by other judges in other cases, the Virginia holding was monumental because for the first time people began to believe.
And the numbers are moving even more dramatically against the mandate, as reflected in a CNN/Opinion Research Poll, showing (Question 26) that 60% now oppose the mandate, up from 56% in early August and 53% in February before Obamacare became law. Only 38% support the mandate, down from 44% in August and 45% in February.
By contrast, opposition to Obamacare in general (Question 24, not specific to the mandate) has weakened, from 59% in March around the time of passage, to 56% in early August to 54% in the recent poll. Of those who oppose, a steady 13% say the law is not liberal enough. (Rasmussen, by contrast, shows more opposition to Obamacare and strong support for repeal.)
Two of the provisions, removing the pre-existing conditions exclusion and preventing insurance companies from dropping coverage, are very popular, north of 60%.
Clearly, the mandate is far more unpopular than Obamacare in general, and it is becoming more unpopular with time. While the questioning does not reveal why the mandate is so unpopular, there are some likely reasons.
First, people never have liked the mandate. It cuts against the grain of our national character.
Second, the mandate has been the focus of controversy. People likely are more familiar with the mandate than they are with more obscure side-effects of Obamacare which will not take effect for months or years. The Obama administration has helped keep the spotlight off of dropped insurance coverage by granting hundreds of waivers to companies. Shining the light on these negative aspects of Obamacare can move public opinion.
Third, the Virginia decision has led people to believe that getting rid of the mandate is possible (as well as focusing attention on it).
The central theme of Obamacare -- control by the federal government -- is its Achilles' Heel, and for most Americans the mandate is the most recognizable aspect of that control. In seeking repeal and defunding, Republicans in Congress should do everything possible to stress the controlling nature of Obamacare, and stretch that Achilles' Heel to the breaking point.
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