Are Americans impressed with the debut of the state health care exchanges? After hearing Washington leaders publicly express their own doubts for a week, it’s not surprising that the American public might have less-than-positive thoughts themselves.

According to a national survey conducted by Pew Research, nearly 50% of those polled said they did not believe that the online insurance exchanges were working well. But when asked for details on actually using an online exchange, 56% of those who’d visited one said they’d personally found the site easy to use.

The survey, conducted Oct. 9-13 among more than 1,500 adults, found that 14% of respondents had visited an exchange and another 23% were intent on doing so. The exchanges have drawn more interest from the currently uninsured, as well, with 22% saying they’d already visited the exchange sites and another 42% planning to go online in the near future. The bulk of the visitors to the exchanges (41%) are folks with employer-provided insurance, and 15% are Medicare or Medicaid recipients.

Pew researchers say that the overall perceptions of the exchanges remain mostly negative, with 46% expressing poor opinions of the exchanges. The reactions also divide along racial and political lines: 52% of white Americans polled offered negative views of the exchanges, while 51% of black opinions were positive. Some 44% percent of registered Democrats spoke in favor of the exchanges, while only 14% of Republicans said they were happy with the exchanges so far.

State-run exchanges also produced better overall responses (32% of users said their state exchanges are running well) versus those in states where the exchanges were run by the federal government (only 26% expressed positive thoughts).

Personal experience with the exchanges hasn’t changed Americans’ view of the ACA itself, Pew notes: only 41% of those polled said they approved of the law and 51% were strongly against the law – slightly more negative than numbers generated a month earlier.

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