Poll: Health care law hurts Obama in 2012

In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of the nation's dozen top battleground states, a clear majority of registered voters call the bill's passage "a bad thing" and support its repeal if a Republican wins the White House in November. Two years after he signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act— and as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments about its constitutionality next month — the president has failed to convince most Americans that it was the right thing to do.

"Mandating that you have to buy the insurance rubs me the wrong way altogether," says Fred Harrison, 62, a horse trainer from York County, Pa., who was among those surveyed and supports repeal even though he likes some provisions of the law. "It should be my own choice."

"It seems like it forces you to take health care (coverage), and you don't really have a say in the matter," says Beth Leffew, 26, a college student from Cincinnati. She says the president "didn't really listen to people" when they objected to the proposed bill. "It seems like he just shoved it right through Congress."


Though the law has avid supporters, especially in the president's Democratic base, the net effect among middle-of-the-road voters is negative for him. What's more, the issue unites the GOP when the party is fractured among competing presidential contenders.

In the poll, Obama lags the two leading Republican rivals in the 12 states likely to determine the outcome of a close race in November:

•Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum tops Obama 50%-45% in the swing states. Nationwide, Santorum's lead narrows to 49%-46%.

•Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney edges Obama 48%-46% in the swing states. Nationwide, they are tied at 47% each.

Romney also has a health care problem: Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in the battleground states, 27% say they are less likely to support him because he signed a Massachusetts law that required residents to have coverage. Just 7% say it makes them more likely to back him.

"If they used Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health care program as a guideline for the Obamacare thing, what's the difference?" says Robert Hargrove, 37, of Sanford, N.C., rejecting Romney's explanation of differences between the state and federal laws. Hargrove, a truck driver for a propane company, scoffs: "It's just a bigger version. They put it on steroids."

The swing states poll of 1,137 registered voters was taken Feb. 14-21. In addition, a national survey of 881 registered voters was taken Feb. 20-21. The margin of error for each is +/-4 percentage points.

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