The most unpopular bill in three decades
This is why Senate Republicans are having so much trouble with the health care bill. The Republican health care effort is the most unpopular legislation in three decades — less popular than the Affordable Care Act when it was passed, the widely hated Troubled Asset Relief Program bank bailout bill in 2008, and even President Bill Clinton's failed health reform effort in the 1990s. That's the verdict from MIT's Chris Warshaw, who compiled polling data from the Roper Center on major legislation Congress has passed since 1990.
Why it matters: It's rare for Congress to move ahead with legislation when the signs are this clear that the public doesn't want it. Clinton's health care plan never got a floor vote in the House or Senate, and neither did President George W. Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security. (It's not included in Warshaw's data, but the Social Security plan only had 46 percent support in February 2005 and seniors were overwhelmingly opposed, according to the Pew Research Center.)
The big exceptions: Democrats ignored the warnings and passed the ACA, expecting the political fights to fade — but they never did. And Congress passed TARP because the markets were melting down and it had no choice. Even in those cases, the polling averages weren't as low as the support for the GOP health care plan.
Then vs. now: Support for the Affordable Care Act fell as low as 38 percent right before final passage — but even that isn't as bad as the 12 percent support for the Senate health care bill in a recent USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll.