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Obamacare And Affordable Care Act Are The Same, But Americans Still Don't Know That


Well, amid all these protests and disruptions over the Affordable Care Act, there is a new survey out suggesting there's still a lot of confusion out there about some pretty basic things. A media and research company called Morning Consult finds a third of Americans say they have no idea that the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are one and the same. Kyle Dropp is Morning Consult's co-founder and chief research officer, and he's here to talk about the survey and what it all means. Kyle, thank you for joining me.

KYLE DROPP: Well, thanks for having me.

SINGH: So just so I understand how people responded, let's talk about some of the questions that you asked.

DROPP: We talked to 2,000 Americans around the country, and we asked them if they thought the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare were the same policy, whether they were different policies or whether they weren't sure. And something like 35 percent of Americans did not realize that they were the same policy. And that number spiked among millennials and among adults with lower incomes who came from those households. And these are specific populations that might most be affected by some of the policy proposals.

SINGH: There is an additional 45 percent of those that were reached that said they didn't know that if Obamacare was repealed that would mean that the Affordable Care Act would disappear. Is that right?

DROPP: That's exactly right. Some other interesting points that came out with that - I think Democrats and Republicans appear to be living in an alternate universe. So, for example, we posed a question - you know, if the Affordable Care Act were repealed and not replaced, would some people lose Medicaid? And there was a 30-point difference between Republicans and Democrats. That is, about 50 percent of Republicans said, yeah, some people would lose it, but something like 80 percent of Democrats said that people would lose it. So there's this big gap sort of in the facts that people are probably looking at or engaging with when they're thinking about these policy proposals.

SINGH: There are a number of newsrooms, including NPR, that have gone out of their way to make sure that we interchange Affordable Care Act with Obamacare in our copy as often as possible so that people hear continuously that they are one and the same. And yet despite this effort, based on Morning Consult's findings, this doesn't seem to have made much of a dent.

DROPP: Some of this is getting through. About two thirds of Americans did say, in fact, that, you know, they were the same policy. One thing that we separately tested - we ran an experiment where we asked half of people, do you approve or disapprove of the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare? A few things stand out. Mentioning Obamacare polarizes people in a way that the Affordable Care Act does not. So for instance, 80 percent of Republicans strongly disapprove of Obamacare. Only about 60 percent strongly disapprove of the Affordable Care Act.

SINGH: What's the takeaway in all this? I mean, for members of Congress, for every stakeholder in this health care debate, what do you think is the overall takeaway from this?

DROPP: Word choice matters. Very slight variations in how you describe something can change people's minds. Sometimes half the battle is figuring out how something is branded across a bunch of issue areas. You know, I think the second point is that we're in a world in which a lot of times people don't agree on the facts. And so it does make it hard to have a debate with Democrats or Republicans if there's not a mutual understanding of what will happen if a policy is changed or expanded.

SINGH: That's Kyle Dropp. He's the co-founder and chief research officer for Morning Consult. He joined me from our studios in Washington. Kyle, thanks for taking the time.

DROPP: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.