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Americans Like 'Obamacare' Less Than the 'Affordable Care Act'

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad

Photograph by Ursula Coyote/AMC via Everett Collection

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad

Republicans coined “Obamacare” as an ominous putdown—and to avoid ever having to refer to the president’s signature health-care law by its loftier official title, “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” Yet for the past year or so, Democrats—including Obama himself—have adopted the term themselves in an effort to turn Obamacare from an insult into a catchy, positive brand name.

Three years after the passage of the law, “Obamacare” is less popular on social media than “Affordable Care Act,” according to a new analysis for Bloomberg Businessweek by online marketing consultancy Kontera. In the week leading up to today’s launch of the new health-insurance-buying exchanges, there were two positive mentions of the Affordable Care Act for every negative one on Twitter, Facebook’s public posts, blogs, and the like. “Obamacare,” meanwhile, got 56 percent positive and 44 percent negative mentions, excluding all neutral ones, says Ammiel Kamon, Kontera’s executive vice president for marketing and mobile.

Was it a mistake for Democrats to embrace “Obamacare” as a label? Not necessarily. If Kontera’s numbers, showing more positive than negative mentions, are to be believed, Obama has managed to neutralize an epithet. Of course, that’s just one data point, and positive social media mentions don’t necessarily translate into support for the Affordable Care Act itself: A Quinnipiac University poll found that Americans oppose the law 47 percent to 45 percent.

One thing’s for sure: The term Obamacare is in the spotlight. According to Kontera, it appeared more times on the Internet over the past month than even Breaking Bad, the hit television show, which Kontera notes “is no slouch.” This past weekend, Saturday Night Live even worked a Breaking Bad reference into its Obamacare spoof.

Coy is Bloomberg Businessweek's economics editor. His Twitter handle is @petercoy.

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