The intensity of feeling on both sides of the health care law has grown in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, even as the overall split remains basically unchanged, according to public polls conducted in the days since the Court's ruling.
Americans are divided on the Court's 5-4 decision last Thursday, the polls show. A new CNN/ORC International poll released on Monday shows that half of Americans agree with the Court's decision, compared with a virtually identical 49 percent that disagree. A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll, also released on Monday, shows 47 percent approve of the decision, compared with 43 percent who disapprove. A survey from the Pew Research Center for People and the Press released Monday found slightly less enthusiasm but a similar split: 40 percent said they disapprove of the ruling, while 36 percent approve.
Those three surveys confirm the results of a one-day Gallup/USA Today poll conducted the night of the decision that showed equal percentages of Americans -- 46 percent -- agreeing and disagreeing with the decision.
Crosstabs provided by CNN show opinions about the decision falling along the familiar lines of race, age, and party identification. Just 43 percent of whites agree with the Court's decision, but nearly two-thirds of non-whites agree. Fifty-six percent of Americans under age 50 agree with the decision, but only 43 percent of those 50 and older agree.
The decision earns the support of 81 percent of Democrats and the opposition of 81 percent of Republicans. Independents are almost evenly divided: 47 percent agree, 52 percent disagree. That represents a party-ID split similar to the other polls. Kaiser found 79 percent of Democrats approve of the decision, and 82 percent of Republicans disapprove. Pew counted 70 percent of Republicans as opposing the law, and 66 percent of Democrats approving.
Pure independents were split: 39 percent approve, and 39 percent disapprove. The Gallup/USA Today poll showed a similar divide: independents split nearly down the middle on the issue.
In the CNN/ORC International poll, respondents are asked about their personal reactions to the decision. Fifteen percent of Americans say they are "enthusiastic" about the decision, 33 percent are "pleased," 31 percent are "displeased," and 20 percent say they are "angry." The intensity of these feelings rivals found in a CNN poll in March 2010, in the days after Congress passed the bill. Then, 15 percent said they were "enthusiastic" about the bill, and 26 percent said they were "angry."
Similarly, in the wake of the Court's decision, the Kaiser poll shows an even divide: 37 percent of Republicans said they were "angry" about the decision, but a similar proportion of Democrats -- 36 percent -- were "enthusiastic."
Pew asked people to offer one-word reactions instead of giving them a range of choices. "Disappointed" and "surprised" topped the list, though "good" and "happy" were also popular.
Other questions in the new surveys also reveal the deep, close divide on health care.
In the CNN/ORC International poll, 52 percent favor "all" or "most" of the provisions in the law, and 47 percent oppose "most" or "all" of the law's provisions. But 51 percent also say they would "rather see Congress vote to repeal all of the provisions in the health care law," while 47 percent would "rather see Congress vote to leave in place all the provisions" of the law.
The Kaiser poll shows that 41 percent have a favorable opinion of the law, and 41 percent have an unfavorable opinion, with the split largely along partisan lines. But the intensity of feeling has grown. Among Democrats, the number with a "very favorable" view of the law has increased in the last month, from 31 percent to 47 percent. Among Republicans, the already higher proportion with a "very unfavorable" view increased too, from 64 percent to 69 percent.
It is instructive to examine the differences in the ways each poll frames the issue, despite their similar results.
In the Gallup/USA Today poll, respondents are told that the Court has "upheld the entire 2010 health care law, declaring it constitutional." They are then asked if they agree or disagree with the decision. The Kaiser Family Foundation poll tells respondents that the Court "recently decided to uphold the health care law," then asks if the respondent approves or disapproves of the decision.