Abstract

Social Security and Medicare enjoy strong political coalitions within the mass public because middle-class Americans believe they derive benefits from these programs and stand alongside lower-income beneficiaries in defending them from erosion. By pooling data from nine nationally representative surveys, this article examines whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is cultivating a similar cross-class constituency. The results show that middle-income Americans are less likely than low-income Americans to say the ACA has helped them personally so far. On the other hand, partisanship conditions the relationship between income and beliefs about benefits likely to be derived from the ACA in the long run. In total, the results suggest that cross-class Democratic optimism about long-run benefits may enable the ACA to reap positive beneficiary feedbacks, but a large and bipartisan cross-class constituency appears unlikely. Drawing on these results, this article also makes theoretical contributions to the policy feedback literature by underscoring the need for research on prospections' power in policy feedbacks and proposing a strategy for researchers, policy makers, and public managers to identify where partisanship intervenes in the standard policy feedback logic model, and thereby to better assess how it fragments and conditions positive feedback effects in target populations.