When Americans think about the big health care case before the Supreme Court, their predictions tend to track closely with their own political beliefs, according to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
People who oppose the 2010 health care reform law think it will be struck down: 83 percent to 7 percent. And those who support it think it will stand, though by a smaller margin of 50 percent compared to 26 percent. And the percentage of those who think the law should be invalidated, 51 percent of those polled, is very similar to the proportion who think it will be, 53 percent.
Perhaps its's not surprising, then, that those polled also thought the Supreme Court justices would decide the case based on political preferences. Twenty-two percent said that the most important factor shaping the justices' decision would be whether they hold liberal or conservative views, compared with 19 percent who credit analysis and interpretation of the law.
Two weeks before the case is argued before the Supreme Court, public opinion on the health care law remains split. The Kaiser poll, which has been asking people whether they approve or disapprove of the law every month since its passage, has consistently found about even proportions for and against it. This month's poll found no differently: 41 percent view the law favorably, while 40 percent don't like it.
"The public now feels the same way about the law as they did on the day that it was passed," said Mollyann Brodie, Kaiser's pollster. "Four in ten favor it and four in ten oppose it."
Another poll from the Pew Research Center released Wednesday found a very similar result. In its poll, 47 percent approve of the overall health care law, while 45 percent disapprove.
The durability of the results, Brodie said, is a reflection of the dug-in positions of those on the political extremes, and a lack of awareness by many in the middle, which has not changed in the two years since the law has passed. When the poll asked questions about whether people were familiar with key provisions of the law, only about half of those polled answered yes, though several of those provisions, including tax credits for small businsses, copay-free preventive health services, and easy-to-understand insurance plan summaries, were all very popular, polling at 80 percent, 69 percent, and 79 percent with favorable opinions.
The exception to that rule is the provision of the law at the center of the Supreme Court case: the requirement that every individual maintain health insurance or pay a fine. The individual mandate is both widely known (64 percent in the Kaiser poll said they were familiar with it) and widely disliked. The Kaiser poll found that only 32 percent of people approved of the measure; the Pew poll found that 41 percent support the mandate.
Polling on the Supreme Court reflects the broader patterns in public attitudes about the law. While the political classes and the health care community have been watching the case closely, many in the public have been not. Fourteen percent think that the Supreme Court has already overturned the law, while 28 percent don't know. Only 28 percent of those polled believe that that the Court's decision will have a big impact on them and their families.
The Kaiser poll surveyed 1,208 adults between February 29 and March 5, with margins of error for various questions at plus or minus 3 or 4 percentage points. The Pew poll surveyed 1,503 adults between March 7 and 11, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.