Poll: Bad press is increasing interest in Obamacare

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(MoneyWatch) The sea of bad press for the federal government's Obamacare website may be doing more good than harm for the Affordable Care Act, according to a new poll.

A survey released Monday by Bankrate.com shows awareness and interest in the plan is growing among key demographics. The poll found 51 percent of all those surveyed -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- say the House Republican attacks and troubled launch of the Obamacare website have made them more interested in the new medical insurance plan. Only 4 percent say they're less interested.

The poll was conducted between Oct. 17 and 20, immediately after the government shutdown and while media attention was shifting to the many technical problems with the Healthcare.gov website.

Interest in the plan is especially high among younger people who are needed to make the plan's economics work. Nearly 60 percent of so-called "young invincibles" age 18 to 29 said they wanted to know more about the ACA. Because people this age use less healthcare than other groups, their insurance payments help subsidize the healthcare costs of others.

All the media attention also seems to have made up for what has been considered a lackluster effort by the government to make people aware of the ACA. Around 64 percent of the uninsured said they were now curious about it, the highest rate of any group in the survey.

"One of the main conservative arguments against Obamacare is that it's something that Americans don't really want, don't need, and thus lack interest in," Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire, said in a release. "The fact that there is more interest, that people want to know more about it, might suggest some good news for the administration."

Unfortunately too many Americans don't know where to go to get the information that would answer their questions. Although 55 percent did know how to find out more about the ACA, 43 percent still said they did not. Furthermore, 66 percent of people who have employer-based insurance and are least likely to need the information said they know where to get more facts compared to only 53 percent those who are uninsured. In general, those with jobs were better informed about all the Obamacare resources.

Two polls released last week showed a slight increase in approval of the ACA. While a CBS poll showed that overall approval ratings hadn't changed since the start of the month, it did find 2 percent more saying they strongly approved of it than had two weeks earlier. A Gallup poll showed 45 percent of the public approving of the law, a 4 percentage point gain since it last recorded the number in August. However, both polls showed at least 50 percent of those surveyed continue to disapprove of Obamacare.

The administration needs to move fast if it wishes to capitalize on the increased awareness of the program. Frustration over registration problems and increased premiums for some people is also increasing. According the Bankrate poll, only 1 in 10 Americans currently believe Obamacare is helping improve their insurance situation.

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    Constantine von Hoffman is a freelance writer and writing coach. His work has appeared in outlets such as Harvard Business Review, NPR, Sierra magazine, Brandweek, CIO, The Boston Herald, TheStreet.com, CSO, and Boston Magazine.

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