High court arguments did not shift public opinion on health reform

Half of respondents to a Kaiser poll were paying close attention to the Supreme Court’s March debate, boosting understanding of the law’s individual mandate.

By — Posted May 4, 2012

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Americans remained just as divided over the national health system reform law in April as they were in March, even after the significant amount of attention paid to the U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration of the statute.

The latest health tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, released April 24, found that the late March hearings before the high court did not move the needle all that much when it came to public perception of the law. The percentage of respondents who said they had a favorable view of the law went from 41% in March to 42% in April, while the unfavorable figure went from 40% to 43%. As it has for the two years the law has been in effect, perception closely tracked the political views of the respondents.

Since the last Kaiser tracking poll was released in March, the percentage of respondents who said they were “very closely” or “fairly closely” following the health reform cases before the Supreme Court jumped 13 percentage points to 50%. Americans’ knowledge of the central focus of the cases — the requirement that individuals obtain health insurance starting in 2014 or pay a penalty — increased 10 percentage points to 74%.

The individual mandate remains unpopular with the public. Seven out of 10 respondents said they have an unfavorable view of the provision, and just over half want to see the Supreme Court invalidate it on constitutional grounds.

Republicans’ confidence in the court has nearly doubled since March, when several conservative justices in their questioning appeared skeptical that the federal government had the power to mandate the purchase of health insurance. Republicans are more likely now to believe that the justices will decide the health reform case based on their analysis and interpretation of the law, whereas in March they were more likely to believe that the justice’s political leanings would determine the outcome.

The tracking poll is available online (link).

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