As the health care deadline nears...

March 28, 2014, 1:03 PM GMT+0

Experiences at have improved since last year, but views about the Affordable Care Act general appear set in stone

Opinions about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) have changed little in months, but as the deadline for enrollment – now pushed back to April – nears, at the very least website users are feeling better about their experience at The Economist/YouGov Poll has been tracking user experience on the website, and while there are still more negative experiences than positive ones, opinions have improved with time.

Of course, some of those who have visited the site went early and never came back – and more than a third in some Economist/YouGov Polls admit they visited only out of curiosity. But, even in the latest poll, about a fifth of those who report ever visiting the site said they went there only in October and November, when the site was suffering severe problems, and never went back. Last November, more than half of the site’s visitors in an Economist/YouGov Poll described their experience as very negative.

Little shift in opinions about the ACA

But even though the views of the website may be improving, opinions about Obamacare itself appear to be set in stone – and those opinions continue to be negative. From October through today, about half of Americans have called the law a failure, while only about one in five have ever rated it a success. The highest “failure” percentages were recorded in late November and early December, when the figure rose to 58%. It has never dropped below 47%.

Like nearly all other health care questions, there are party divisions, with Republicans extremely negative about the law. Three out of four Republicans, for example, call the law a failure. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they have been personally affected by the law – and in a negative way. And while in recent weeks more than half of Democrats who have ever visited report their experiences have been positive, more than three in four Republicans who have done the same say their experience was negative.

The discussions about Obamacare – both in the media and among friends and family – appear to be overwhelmingly negative. In this week’s poll, 54% report that the media stories have been mostly negative, and nearly as many say discussions with friends and family have been the same. Few describe news stories or family discussions as positive.

In recent polls, Americans have expressed little consensus about what will happen to the ACA. This week, 37% expect nothing will happen and it will continue in its present form, 43% think something different will replace it, and 20% think it will just be repealed.

What they want to happen to the law has been consistent over time, and this question starkly illustrates the divisions on healthcare. Since 2012, more than four in ten have wanted the law repealed. That percentage has gone as high as 51% in late November last year. But nearly as many have said the law should be expanded or remain the same.

The smallest percentage has always been the group who simply want to keep the law as it is: on both sides of the issue, Americans claim to be looking for something different.

One other area on which little movement has taken place in months is the evaluation of the President’s handling of health care. This week only four in ten approve – about the same as his approval rating on this issue last fall.

Image: Getty

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

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