Anti-Obamacare ads only helped market it

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Niam Yaraghi, a researcher at the Brookings Institution, determined that negative advertising against the Affordable Care Act only boosted enrollment.

Although the volume of spending on anti-ACA ads is driven by the competitiveness of the Senate midterm elections and may be effective in reducing the votes for the targeted political figure, they may not necessarily reduce the popularity of the ACA. The blue and red lines show the association between the anti-ACA ads spending and the ACA enrollment ratio in states with Democratic and Republican Senators running for re-election. While the negative ads reduce the enrollment in red states, they have an opposite effect in blue states.

In fact, after controlling for other state characteristics such as low per capita income population and average insurance premiums, I observe a positive association between the anti-ACA spending and ACA enrollment. This implies that anti-ACA ads may unintentionally increase the public awareness about the existence of a governmentally subsidized service and its benefits for the uninsured.

On the Media interviewed Yaraghi; The Atlantic's Joe Pinsker evokes the Borat effect, whereby grotesque caricatures of Kazakstan and its residents put it on the map as a tourist destination.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s movie Borat was, to say the least, not very flattering to the nation of Kazakhstan: the title character, presented as a cultural emissary from the Central Asian country, is misogynistic, anti-semitic, and generally pretty racist. And yet, after the film was released in 2006, said that requests for information about the country’s accommodations increased by 300 percent.

Put simply, when people are being told that Obamacare is bad, it's often the first they're really thinking about it at all. And their second thought is, "wait, there are subsidized health plans I can get?" Yaraghi also suggests, however, that it works with clued-in voters who anticipate repeal, but repeal that grandfathers-in early adopters to avoid kicking people off their insurance plans: "[if they] believe that this service is going to be repealed ... [they] will have a higher willingness to go and take advantage of this one-time opportunity before it goes away"