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Obamacare got less unpopular ahead of Republicans' replacement health plan

The Democrats are getting in line on Obamacare, while the Republicans are getting sicker of it.

A new survey shows Obamacare becoming more popular — or less unpopular, depending on your point of view — as the presidential election gets closer.

The Kaiser Family Foundation survey released Thursday found that the gap between unfavorable and favorable views of the Affordable Care Act shrank by 9 percentage points between April and June, with both sides now landing in a statistical dead heat.

A total of 44 percent of the public had an unfavorable view of the law as of this month — down from 49 percent in April, Kaiser found.

During the same time period, the share of people with a favorable opinion of the law rose from 38 percent in April to 42 percent this month, according to the survey.

The survey is based on questions made over the phone to 1,201 adults, and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Since Kaiser's Health Tracking Poll began asking people their opinions of Obamacare in 2010, the survey has found a persistent partisan divide over the law, which was proposed by a Democratic president, Barack Obama, and passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress. The law mandated that most Americans have some form of health insurance coverage, and implemented several programs to help expand ways to obtain such coverage.

"Democrats have always been more favorable, and Republicans have always been unfavorable," said Liz Hamel, director of Kaiser's public opinion and survey research team.

That split continued in the latest survey.

But the poll also found a slight improvement in opinion of the law among Democrats, with just 19 percent of them having an unfavorable view of Obamacare now, compared to 25 percent in April. Seven in 10 Democrats now say they see the law favorably, compared to 63 percent in April.

The shift among Democrats comes as Hillary Clinton has all but cemented the party's nomination for president. Clinton's campaign says that if elected to the White House, she will "defend the Affordable Care Act and build on it to slow the growth of out-of-pocket costs."

At the same time, Kaiser found that Republicans are more likely than before to say they want Congress to repeal Obamacare. A year ago, 51 percent of Republicans supported congressional repeal of the law. That grew to 66 percent by this month.

"Among Republicans, I think it's clear that there's a majority with an unfavorable view of the law," Hamel said. "But it's less clear about what the next steps should be."

Kaiser's report on the poll said there is a split among Republicans "on whether there should be a Republican-sponsored replacement for the law or not."

About 3 in 10 Republicans said they want Obamacare repealed and replaced with a Republican alternative, the survey found. But 25 percent of Republicans say they don't want the law replaced after it is repealed.

Hamel said the survey was conducted before House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., announced his proposals for a replacement to Obamacare last week.

Ryan's proposals are likely to find more support from Republicans than with a broad cross section of Americans. Kaiser's survey found that just 33 percent of all respondents want Obamacare repealed, while 28 percent want to expand what the law does.

Only 11 percent "want to scale back what the law does," according to Kaiser.

In other results, Kaiser's survey found that the top health story followed by Americans in June were articles about the rising costs of health insurance premiums. A total of 83 percent of the public has seen such stories.

Most, if not all of those news stories in recent months have been about the proposed price increases for individual health plans sold on Obamacare marketplaces operated by the federal government and state governments.

Despite that, the survey indicated that half of the respondents said the stories have been about all insurance plans, both individual plans and employer-based plans. Sixteen percent said the reports were about only employer-based plans. Just 10 percent of respondents correctly said the stories related to individual Obamacare plans.