PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans are sharply divided over Thursday's Supreme Court decision on the 2010 healthcare law, with 46% agreeing and 46% disagreeing with the high court's ruling that the law is constitutional. Democrats widely hail the ruling, most Republicans pan it, and independents are closely divided.
This reaction, from a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted June 28, is consistent with Gallup polling on the 2012 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act earlier this year, which showed roughly equal percentages of Americans calling congressional passage of the act a good thing vs. a bad thing.
Most Would Keep the Law in Some Form, but Majority Would Also Repeal Parts
After the court announced its decision Thursday, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney immediately vowed he would begin repealing "Obamacare" on day one of his presidency. His reaction and that of other Republicans suggests that the battle over U.S. healthcare reform isn't over, but is likely to move back to Capitol Hill -- or the White House, should Romney be elected.
When asked what they want Congress to do now that the high court has upheld the 2010 law, 31% say they would repeal the law entirely and 21% would keep the law in place but repeal parts of it. A quarter of Americans swing in the other direction, saying they would like Congress to pass legislation to expand the government's role in healthcare beyond what the current law does. Thirteen percent want to keep the law in place and do nothing further.
Views on this question are highly partisan, with 65% of Democrats coming down on the side of maintaining, if not expanding, the law, and 85% of Republicans coming down on the side of repealing it, either in whole or in part. Independents are more evenly divided, with 40% in favor of keeping or expanding the law and 49% in favor of repealing all or part of it.
One in Five Will Vote Based on Candidates' Healthcare Positions
Four in five Americans tell Gallup they will take candidates' views on healthcare reform into account to at least some degree when voting for major political offices this fall. This includes 21% who say they will vote only for a candidate who shares their views on healthcare reform and 59% who say healthcare will be just one of many important factors they will consider when voting. A relatively small 12% say healthcare reform will not be a major factor in their vote.
The 21% saying candidates must share their views on healthcare is higher than what Gallup found relative to the abortion issue in May 2008, using parallel question wording. At that time, just 13% of Americans said they would vote only for a candidate who shared their views on abortion and 37% said it was not a major issue.
Americans who say they will vote only for a candidate who shares their view on healthcare reform are more likely to disagree than agree with the court's decision, by 59% to 36%. This translates to 12% of all Americans who say they will base their vote on the issue and who oppose the decision, and 7% who will base their vote on the issue and who support the decision. Thus, there is a slight potential net advantage for the anti-healthcare-reform position at the ballot box stemming from Thursday's decision.
Politics a Factor
Nearly two-thirds of Americans see politics as having a heavy hand in the ruling, possibly reflecting a knee-jerk belief among Americans that politics is always a factor. Alternatively, it could specifically reflect the fact that eight of the nine justices voted in politically predictable ways. Or it could reflect a belief on the part of some Americans that Chief Justice John Roberts' decision to side with the four liberal justices may have been influenced by the substantial political implications of the case.
In any event, 64% of Americans say politics played too great a role in the court's decision, while 29% disagree. The vast majority of those who disagree with the decision, 84%, believe politics played too great a role, but so do nearly half of those who agree with the decision, 47%.
Accordingly, 80% of Republicans believe politics played too big a role, compared with 67% of independents and 47% of Democrats.
Despite validating President Obama's signature legislative accomplishment and issuing the most highly anticipated court decision in recent memory, the Supreme Court has apparently not yet changed Americans' overall views of the 2010 healthcare reform law. Americans remain closely divided in this first snapshot of public reaction to the decision, just as Americans' current party identification is divided and registered voters' preferences in the 2012 presidential election are divided. In these and other important ways, the nation is split down the middle politically.
How Americans ultimately react to the efforts by both proponents and opponents of the law to change its course remain to be seen. These include the Obama administration's push to speed up implementation of the law, and Republicans' efforts to repeal it. However, the immediate concern may be how this decision affects the November elections. At this point, it appears that Republicans and those opposed to the court decision have a slight edge on healthcare reform as a voting issue, with more saying they will vote only for candidates who share their views on it.
The ruling could also affect public reaction to the Supreme Court. Americans' approval of the Supreme Court was below 50% last fall, and Americans' confidence in the court remains much lower than it was a decade ago. Controversial decisions like the 2000 ruling that settled that year's presidential election in favor of George W. Bush have taken a toll, and may have weighed on Chief Justice Roberts as he considered the case. Americans may ultimately view his vote as a nonpartisan gesture that benefits the court; however, for now, Republicans, independents, and even half of Democrats see the decision as overly political.
Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 28, 2012, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,012 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.