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Most Trump voters don't want Trump to sabotage Obamacare

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Americans are sick of Obamacare repeal and Obamacare sabotage.

This much becomes clear looking at the latest polling data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which finds that 60 percent of Americans think it's a "good thing" that the Senate health care bill failed — and 78 percent expect the Trump administration to "do what they can" to make the law work better.

Right now, President Trump is not doing what he can to make Obamacare work. His administration remains cagey about whether it will continue to pay key subsidies. It has not let the thousands of insurance enrollment workers across the country know what type of outreach campaigns it will run, if any. Many insurance plans are nervous that the Trump administration won't enforce the mandate to purchase coverage, and they are jacking up their premiums as a result.

Trump seems to have had, for months now, a theory about how Obamacare's failure could play to his advantage. If the marketplaces blew up, he seemed to expect that voters would blame former President Barack Obama for a poorly drafted law — and that Congress would rush to fix these problems with a repeal-and-replace package.

What the Kaiser poll reveals is that the public doesn't see it this way at all. Even among those who identify as Republican, there is a strong expectation that it is Trump's job to fix the health care law.

As you can see in the chart above, for example, 52 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of Trump supporters think that the president and his administration should "do what they can to make the law work."

The Kaiser poll also finds that 60 percent of voters believe Trump is now responsible for any problems with the health care law going forward. That number shrinks down to 36 percent among Trump voters, but that is still a pretty sizable minority from the president's supporters.

Trump has so far managed the Affordable Care Act as a bargaining chip, a program that he can save or sabotage to move forward repeal efforts. The goal of that strategy isn't to make Obamacare work well. The goal is to create the political context that would allow Obamacare to be repealed.

This poll suggests that the public wants Trump to start treating the health law more like a federal program that provides health insurance to millions — one that has flaws the government could work to fix.

One truth that the Trump administration will increasingly need to grapple with is Obamacare's rising popularity. The Kaiser poll has asked the public whether it approves or disapproves of the law for 80 consecutive months now. In the past few months, approval ratings have steadily ticked upward. The last three polls have found a majority of Americans support it. They even show a slight uptick in support among Republican voters, who have long been staunchly opposed to the Affordable Care Act.

Obamacare is becoming more popular, and Americans want it fixed. Congress is taking steps toward packages to shore it up (a new idea popped up among House Republicans just today). But the Trump administration has so far remained a holdout in this space, talking about repeal. We'll see if any of this new polling might change their tune.

Chart of the Day

The opioid epidemic, explained. With the White House turning its focus to the opioid epidemic, I found it helpful to revisit this explainer from my colleague German Lopez on how the problem got so bad. You can also follow German, whose reporting focuses on the opioid epidemic, on Twitter — and may enjoy his recent piece about how to solve the crisis.

Kliff’s Notes

With research help from Caitlin Davis

Today's top news

  • “MacArthur and Meadows working on ACA stabilization package”: “Reps. Tom MacArthur and Mark Meadows are working together on an individual market stabilization package, according to a senior GOP aide. It will include funding for the Affordable Care Act's cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers, although it's unclear for how long.” —Caitlin Owens, Axios
  • “House conservatives want fresh health care repeal vote”: “Hard-line conservatives began an uphill fight Friday to force a fresh House vote this fall on erasing much of President Barack Obama’s health care law without an immediate replacement, the latest instance of Republican rifts in what’s been a fractious week for the GOP.” —Alan Fram, Associated Press
  • "Nevada Senate race shows Republican division over healthcare – and Trump": “On Tuesday, Danny Tarkanian, a Las Vegas businessman with a record of winning GOP primaries in the Silver State, announced that he would challenge Heller for the only Senate seat held by a Republican in a state Hillary Clinton won in 2016.” —Lauren Gambino, the Guardian

Analysis and longer reads

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