SCOTUS decision leaves American public on divergent tracks

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, a new tracking poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that slightly more Americans approve of the decision, with 47 percent endorsing the sanction and 43 percent disapproving.

Not surprisingly, the approval and disapproval ratings are heavily influenced by party affiliation. Eighty-two percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Independents who lean Republican reported they disapproved of the Supreme Court ruling. Likewise, 79 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of Independents who lean Democrat said they approved of the ruling.

Perhaps most telling of the divisions on the issue was the opinion of Independents who don’t lean either toward the left or right, who were split with 39 percent approving of the decision and an equal proportion disapproving.

Overall, views on the Affordable Care Act remain evenly split – 41 percent approve and 41 percent disapprove while 18 percent either don’t know about it or didn’t answer the question. Despite the divisions within the country, the Kaiser poll has shown a steady improvement in Americans’ views of the health law in the past eight months. Last October, fully 51 percent of people polled disapproved of the law and only 35 percent approved.

While public opinion remains divided on health reform, the poll also found that in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, most Americans (56 percent) want opponents of the law to move on to other pressing matters facing the country as opposed to continue fighting it (38 percent).

In a finding that may have implications for the presidential election in November, 51 percent of Independents who don’t lean and who were evenly split on their opinion of the ruling, said opponents should move on to other priorities, while only 35 percent said opponents should continue to fight it.

Within the Republican Party there is also a split in opinion on what should come next. More than two-in-three Republicans – 69 percent – want to continue to fight against the law, but these views differ among those who identify with the Tea Party and those who don’t. Tea Party supporters want to continue fighting against the law at a rate of 82 percent, while only 53 percent of Republicans who don’t identify with the group want to continue opposition.

Finally, the decision may have served to energize members of the electorate who want to repeal the law. Directly after the decision, 31 percent of Republicans polled said they would be more likely to vote in November based on the ruling, while only 18 percent of Democrats would be more likely to vote. Only 16 percent of Independents who don’t lean said it would make them more likely to go to the polls on election day.

The Kaiser survey is intended to provide a snapshot of opinions in the immediate wake of the Supreme Court ruling. Kaiser said it would release a second survey later this month to measure possible changes to public opinion as the news -- and policymaker’s reaction to it -- sink in. The second poll will also examine a host of other issues including the use of the government’s taxing power as the basis for ruling that the individual mandate is constitutional, a change in federal enforcement of the law’s Medicaid expansion, and the ways that states may respond to that change.

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