Nation

What’s more popular than the Senate health care bill? Nixon, to start

WASHINGTON — The Better Care Reconciliation Act is really unpopular, and not just because it has a name that is incomprehensible to most Americans.

In polls released this week, the Senate Republicans’ bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act received a 17 percent approval rating from Americans, according to a NPR/PBS/Marist poll, and it fared even worse in other surveys. According to Quinnipiac University, just 16 percent of Americans approved of the Senate health care legislation. USA Today/Suffolk University had the approval tally at 12 percent. Under the proposed law, 22 million people would lose insurance by 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

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For perspective, here’s a list of things that have been more popular with the American public:

Obamacare

To this point, the Republican strategy for drumming up support for the BCRA and its House companion, the American Health Care Act, has been to rail against former President Obama’s Affordable Care Act — long known as Obamacare. Just one problem: Obamacare remains more popular than its proposed alternatives and has never reached the depths of a 17 percent approval rating with the American public.

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During 2010, the year it was passed through Congress and signed by President Obama, a majority of Americans disapproved of the health care law, but 39.9 percent approved, according to data from Real Clear Politics. Even during 2012 and 2014, when the bill was a rallying cry for conservatives to make massive political gains in the House and Senate, Obamacare never dipped significantly below 40 percent support.

Since the election of President Trump, who has made the repeal of Obamacare a major legislative priority, the endangered legislation keeps getting more popular. Kaiser Family Foundation, which has been tracking the ACA’s popularity since its passage, said it had 51 percent support this month.

May 2017 was the first month ever that Obamacare had a majority of favorable views. According to their data, it is now more than three times more popular than the Senate Republicans’ health care plan.

Nancy Pelosi

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The latest polls show House minority leader Pelosi, long derided for her unpopularity, is hovering around a 29 percent approval rating, with 48 percent of people disapproving of her leadership. This is slightly better than the congressional average, which the public tends to view negatively. According to Gallup, 21 percent of American people approve of Congress as a whole, which is close to a historic low.

Vladimir Putin

In the age of Trump, the Russian strongman has grown more popular. A February poll by Gallup showed Putin had a 22 percent approval rating among Americans, up from 13 percent in 2015. The American intelligence community says Putin and Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election and sought to undermine the American democratic process. Nevertheless, Putin is polling better than the Senate health care bill — surely not a good sign for Republicans.

Richard Nixon

Nixon resigned the presidency after the Watergate scandal and was pardoned by his successor to avoid criminal charges, making him perhaps the least popular president of all time. At the time of his resignation, Nixon’s approval rating was about 25 percent, per Gallup polling. Even now, when asked about Nixon’s presidency retrospectively, Gallup says 33 percent of Americans approve of Nixon’s time in office.

Vietnam War

The war that inspired a nationwide wave of protests and has since become synonymous with costly American entanglements was — and remains — more popular than the Senate health care bill. During 1965, Gallup found that the most unpopular the Vietnam War ever got was a 23 percent approval rating, which it earned in May 1971, among those over 49 years old. In 2000, Gallup again asked the American public how it felt about the Vietnam War, and 36 percent of respondents said it was “very favorable” or “mostly favorable.”

Lance Armstrong

The former American cyclist, now disgraced for having admitted to using steroids after years of lying, had approval of 17 percent of the American public, according to Survey USA, which measures the favorability ratings of celebrities.

Kim Kardashian

The reality TV star, media mogul, and general pop culture maven is the least popular celebrity in America, according to some polls. Though she has legions of fans, “Q Scores” finds that she also has plenty of detractors — but she still outperforms the Senate health care bill. Twenty-nine percent of Americans have a favorable view of Kardashian, who is married to rapper Kanye West.

Bigfoot (well, sort of)

Believing in Bigfoot is not the same as supporting him, but according to Public Policy Polling, 14 percent of Americans are convinced the furry galoot is real. So by a 2-point margin, according to the USA Today/Suffolk University poll, more Americans think Bigfoot walks the earth than support the Senate GOP health care bill.

Astead W. Herndon can be reached at astead.herndon@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @AsteadWH.
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