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Polls Agree: Americans Still Deeply Divided About Health Care Reform Polls Agree: Americans Still Deeply Divided About Health Care Ref... Polls Agree: Americans Still Deeply Divided About Health Care Reform Polls Agree: Americans St...

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Health Care / HEALTH CARE

Polls Agree: Americans Still Deeply Divided About Health Care Reform

But one poll shows intensity of feeling has risen since Supreme Court ruling.

Steve Ciccarelli of Annandale, Va., a proponent of President Obama's health care law, argues with opponent on the issue, Susan Clark, of Washington, D.C., outside the Supreme Court Thursday while awaiting the court's ruling on the law.(AP Photo/David Goldman)

July 2, 2012

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.

But, in the CNN/ORC International poll, respondents are told that the law "included a provision that will require all Americans who do not have health insurance to get it." They were then told that the Court "ruled that provision of the health care law is constitutional, allowing nearly all of the proposals in the health care law to take effect."

The CNN poll also finds Americans split on the mandate: 48 percent favor it, while 51 percent oppose it. But here, too, the wording of the question is important. Other surveys ask about the mandate in a way that includes language about a fine or penalty (or, perhaps in coming polls, a "tax") on those individuals who do not obtain insurance. For example, nearly two-thirds of Americans thought that "the federal government should not be able to require all Americans to obtain health insurance or else pay a fine," according to a United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll conducted in March of this year.

The CNN/ORC International poll contains no such language, asking respondents only if they favor or oppose "the provision in that law that will require all Americans who do not have health insurance to get it." Had the poll included language about a fine or penalty before the initial question about the Court's decision, it is possible that there may have been iminished support for the ruling. The poll did ask, after the question about the mandate, if respondents consider it "a tax on Americans," and three in five said they did consider it a tax.

More than half of respondents in the Kaiser poll -- 56 percent -- said that opponents should "stop their efforts to block the law and move on to other national problems." That appears to be the strategy the Obama administration has embraced. Republicans, however, are fighting on. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has scheduled another symbolic repeal vote for next week.

The CNN/ORC International poll was conducted June 28-July 1. The poll surveyed 1,517 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

The Kaiser Family Foundation poll was conducted June 28-30, surveying 1,239 adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. The foundation conducts a monthly survey of Americans' attitudes on health care issues.

The Gallup/USA Today poll was conducted on June 28, the evening of the decision. That poll surveyed 1,012 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Polls conducted entirely in one day "are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days," according to Gallup.

The Pew Research Center poll was conducted between June 28 and July 1, and surveyed 1,006 adults in the United States. The margin of error is plus-or-minus 3.6 percentage points on general questions; plus or minus about 6.5 percentage points for political subgroups.

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