The Harvard Public Opinion Project released statistics showing millennials approve of President Obama’s signature health care law in differing numbers depending on the name used to describe it (i.e., the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare). This nonexistent, yet perceived difference, shows not only the importance of branding and marketing in how millennials view laws, but also the extent of their ignorance when it comes to politics.
What’s in a Name?
Although the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare both describe the same reforms championed by President Obama, there are key differences in the support for each name when considering different demographics. In terms of party affiliation, Democrats were 13 points (81 percent versus 68 percent) more likely to support the law when called the Affordable Care Act. This is surprising given that many would believe Democrats would be more likely to support the law when marketed with a Democratic president’s name. On the other hand, independents were 10 points (38 percent versus 28 percent) more likely to support it when called Obamacare. Males and females also viewed the names differently. Males were more likely to approve of Obamacare than the Affordable Care Act (40 percent versus 36 percent) while females approved of the Affordable Care Act over Obamacare (41 percent versus 36 percent).
Millennials with no college education were five points more likely to think healthcare costs would decrease under Obamacare than the Affordable Care Act. However, among all respondents with no health insurance, they were six points more likely to favor the Affordable Care Act. Further, the less likely an individual is to enroll, the more negatively the name Obamacare is perceived compared to the Affordable Care Act. However, with regards to those who have indecisive feelings about the law, Obamacare seems to have a more positive effect: while 59 percent of respondents who will probably enroll heard about the law as the Affordable Care Act, 82 percent of those who will probably enroll heard about it as Obamacare. This data demonstrates not only how easily the branding of laws sways millennials, but also how difficult it is to deduce trends within such a diverse generation.
Ironically, those who considered themselves politically active, and should have known no difference exists between the two names, were eight points more likely to think that Obamacare will be cheaper than the Affordable Care Act. Fifty-six percent of these self-proclaimed politically engaged believe that the Affordable Care Act will make their quality of care worse while only 33 percent believe the same for Obamacare. Interestingly, non-politically active millennials were not significantly affected by the name difference.
It is evident that the connotations associated with each label carries different meanings for millennials depending on various demographic factors. Therefore, the Obama administration should strategically use the different names when trying to win the support of specific cohorts within the millennial generation. On a more troubling note, the different perceptions of the two names by the self-proclaimed politically active raises questions as to just how aware young Americans are when it comes to politics, especially those individuals who perhaps mistakenly overestimate their knowledge.