Republicans enjoy a modest enthusiasm advantage heading into the November elections, which could prove crucial in what's expected to be a low-turnout election in most states. More than a quarter of Republicans (27%) say they are “more enthusiastic” about voting this year than in the past, according to the survey. By comparison, only 20% of Democrats and 18% of independents expressed heightened enthusiasm about turning out to vote.
Among the most enthusiastic voters, 13% indicated that they are motivated by a desire to elect more Republicans and give them control of the Senate, with another 5% citing opposition to President Barack Obama as a major motivating factor. By contrast, only 4% of those voters indicated that their enthusiasm is spurred by a desire to help Democrats keep control of the Senate, and just 3% of those respondents cited the ACA as a reason for their enthusiasm.
More than half of registered voters surveyed indicated that they have heard advertisements related to the ACA in the past 30 days. But in 11 states where there are competitive Senate races, that figure jumps to 71%. Roughly a third of respondents in those states indicated that they are seeing more ads opposed to the federal healthcare law compared with only 7% who said they're seeing more positive ads.
“It's a wonder people aren't throwing bricks at television sets,” Cook said of the advertising onslaught in states with competitive races.
But Jim Morill, a political reporter for the Charlotte Observer, said the ads have shifted away from healthcare in North Carolina, where Sen. Kay Hagan is facing a tough re-election contest. “A year ago it was all over the airwaves in North Carolina,” Morill said. “Those ads have pretty much disappeared from the airwaves.”
The ACA remains broadly unpopular, with 47% of respondents indicating an unfavorable view of the law compared with 35% who view it favorably. Those numbers have hardly budged for months.
“If you know someone's partisan leanings, you can basically predict everything they think about the Affordable Care Act,” said Mollyann Brodie, who oversees the Kaiser Family Foundation's public opinion surveys. “People's views on this law have really been set in stone since the beginning.”
But just a third of respondents favor repealing and replacing the law. Instead, they support improving it, with 63% of respondents favoring that course.
Repeal of the law, however, remains a salient issue for a significant subset of voters. Among respondents registered to vote, 41% indicated that they would be more likely to support a candidate who voted to repeal the ACA, compared with only 30% who suggested that they would be less likely to back that candidate.
The Kaiser survey included 1,505 adults nationwide. It was conducted by between Aug. 25 and Sept. 2 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Follow Paul Demko on Twitter: @MHpdemko