Do Major Policy Enactments Affect Public Evaluations of Congress? The Case of Health Care Reform

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Abstract

This study analyzes changes in individual evaluations of Congress immediately before and after enactment of national health care reform in 2010. It tests three alternative hypotheses: that enactment increased the likelihood of approval by demonstrating congressional competence; that it decreased the likelihood of approval by calling attention to partisan processes; or that it differentially affected citizens’ evaluations depending on their individual policy preferences. The results show enactment polarized citizens’ evaluations of Congress, with supporters of the bill increasing their approval of Congress and opponents decreasing. These findings represent the first concrete evidence that enactments can affect evaluations of Congress.

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