Policy Threat, Partisanship, and the Case of the Affordable Care Act

How do political conditions influence whether public support develops for a new policy? Specifically, does the presence of partisan polarization and a viable threat to a policy’s continuation prevent the emergence of such support? We propose a theoretical framework that considers how policy feedback may be affected by the presence or absence of both policy threat and polarization. We argue that a threat is likely to increase policy salience and trigger loss aversion, expanding policy feedback even amid strong partisanship. We examine the threat to the Affordable Care Act after Republicans won control of Congress and the White House and stood poised to act on their long promise to repeal the law. Five waves of panel data permit analysis of how individuals’ responses to the law changed over time, affecting their support for it as well as their voting calculations. The results suggest that policy threat heightens the effect of policy feedback for some populations while depressing it for others, in some cases mitigating partisan polarization, and overall boosting program support.

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License CC BY
DOI https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055422000612
Type Journal Articles
C-ID POLS 110 - American