Short Takes On News & Events

Personal Views Color Public Opinion Of Health Law Court Case

By Jordan Rau

March 14th, 2012, 1:41 PM

Half the country hopes the Supreme Court will throw out the health law’s mandate that Americans carry health insurance, according to a new poll released Wednesday. In what may be a sign of political wish fulfillment, half of Americans expect that the court will take that course when it takes up the case later this month. Only 33 percent of people expect the court will uphold the individual mandate, which has long been one of the least popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

The poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that the public’s views on the court case are deeply colored by their own ideological and political perspective. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) Among those with a favorable view of the law — primarily Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents — only 26 percent think the court should rule the health insurance mandate is unconstitutional, while 50 percent think it should be kept. Among those who oppose the law– primarily Republicans and Republican-leaning independents — only 7 percent think the mandate should be upheld, while 83 percent believe it should be struck down.

The poll indicated that these strong opinions weren’t grounded in a great deal of knowledge. Fewer thanĀ four in 10 people say they are closely following the court case, and only 58 percent are confident that the health care law is in fact still on the books and a real law. Yet 86 percent were willing to proffer an opinion on how they expect the court to rule on the case.

Which ever way the court rules, it doesn’t appear that it’s going to change people’s views of the law. Only a sliver of people who oppose the law say they will view the law more positively if the court upholds the law, and only a sliver of supporters say a repudiation by the court will dampen their views.

The poll found a good deal of skepticism that the court’s ruling will be made purely on a legal basis. Only 54 percent think the justices’ analysis and interpretation of the law will play a major role in their decision. Half of Americans believe the justice’s own ideological views and and national politics will play a major role.

Interestingly, many actually want the third branch of government to be less independent of the vox populi in this matter. Thirty-four percent think the “views of average Americans” should play the most important part in the justices’ decisions. Only 29 percent think legal judgment should be the deciding factor.

Adhering to public will — besides being the opposite of what civics classes teach students that the judicial branch is supposed to do — would not an easy instruction to follow in this case. Both the Kaiser poll and a new poll from the Pew Research Center for People & the Press find that two years after the law’s passage, the public remains evenly divided about whether they like it.

The Pew poll also found the individual mandate to be unpopular, although pollsters there noticed that the public’s view was malleable based on how the mandate was described to them. According to Pew:

The survey question mentioned both the financial penalty to be assessed for failure to purchase insurance and the financial assistance the government will provide to those who cannot afford a policy. But levels of approval of the provision were highly sensitive to which aspect of the law was mentioned last.

Among those for whom the question ended with the reference to financial help, opinion is evenly divided (47% approve of the mandate vs. 49% who disapprove). But among those who heard about the penalty last, most disapprove of the provision (63% disapprove vs. 34% approve).

The Kaiser poll was conducted among 1,208 adults between Febuary 29 and March 5. The Pew poll was conducted among 1,503 adults between March 7 and March 11. Both polls had margins of error of +/- 3 percentage points.

jrau@kff.org

5 Responses to “Personal Views Color Public Opinion Of Health Law Court Case”

  1. mitch says:

    The Supreme Court is corrupt and politically motivated. Only morons believe otherwise. How else did George W. Bush and Dick Cheney win the 2000 election. Bush and Cheney were appointed. It’s the only time in our 200 plus year old history where the Supreme Court appointed a President. How will they vote when it comes to the individual mandate, something that both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney strongly supported in the past? The Supreme Court will vote along party lines, as has been their habit for many years. In spite of the fact that Supreme Courts should never legislate, they will. If they can crown George W. Bush as the Emperor of America, then they can do just about anything they please. In my opinion, this corrupt institution should be abolished since it has become so unfair and political in their rulings and opinions. They have become useless!

  2. ruth says:

    The sad thing is, like Mitch says, Republicans strongly supported the individual mandate in the past. Until Obamacare became law, Republicans have always embraced the idea of individuals being responsible for paying for the health care that they inevitability use at some point in their lives. It is absolutely true that Romneycare is the model for Obamacare. In the past Mitt Romney wrote that the federal government should copy Romneycare. It is absolutely true that Newt Gingrich wrote extensively about the virtues of an individual mandate. Now, all of a sudden, these two leading Republicans think the individual mandate is a bad idea? Hypocrites! Republicans are nothing but hypocrites! Republicans will say anything to get elected. ANYTHING!

  3. Doug says:

    I think if they throw out the mandate, then they should also throw out the rule that hospitals have to treat anyone who appears at the ED, whether or not they have the resources to pay. You can’t have it both ways.

  4. ruth says:

    Doug,
    That sounds fair. Hospitals should not be forced to treat people that refuse to pay. This is why more and more hospitals are closing their emergency rooms. They are realizing that they can’t afford charity care any longer. I don’t blame them for closing.

  5. Randy says:

    If you want to know how Mitt Romney really feels about health care for all Americans, do a web search for his op-ed article entitled, “Mr. President, what’s the rush?”

    The fact is, Romneycare is a success in Massachusetts and is the template for how Obamacare was crafted. I don’t know why Mitt Romney would try to distance himself from such a huge success.

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