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Kaiser Health Tracking Poll — April 2012

The April poll gauged Americans’ opinions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the wake of the Supreme Court oral arguments in the legal challenges to the health reform law in March.

The increased public attention to the Affordable Care Act generated by the Supreme Court’s consideration of the law did not meaningfully change the public’s opinion of the law overall or of the specific provision at the heart of critics’ legal case against it, the requirement that nearly everyone obtain health insurance. Forty-two percent say they have a favorable opinion of the law this month and 43 percent have an unfavorable one, a division virtually unchanged from March. Similarly, the individual mandate is as unpopular as it was in March, but not more so. Seven in ten Americans oppose this provision, including 53 percent of the public who say they hold “very unfavorable” views of it. Overall, half of Americans (51%) believe the court should rule the mandate unconstitutional, identical to March.

The Supreme Court challenge did appear to have an impact on Americans’ sense of familiarity with the ACA, however. In April three in four Americans (74%) report they are aware that the individual mandate is part of the health care law, up from 64 percent before the Court heard oral arguments last month. And the proportion who feels they understand how the law will impact them jumped to 51 percent, up 12 percentage points from March. Overall, half the public reported following news about the Court challenge at least fairly closely in April, up from 37 percent last March.

Although most Americans (63%) don’t expect to have to change anything about their health coverage when the mandate takes effect in 2014, nearly three in ten (28%) do believe they will have to make some change to their current insurance arrangements. Among the latter group, three times as many say they will be worse off (20%) as say they will be better off (6%) after making that change.

The proportion of the public expressing a high degree of confidence in the Supreme Court rose from 23 percent to 31 percent in the last month, driven by a big boost among Republicans, who overwhelmingly disapprove of the ACA and perhaps are responding to the tough questioning about the law by some of the justices.

There was a noticeable jump in the proportion of Americans saying that the justices’ analysis and interpretation of the law would play the most important role in their decision in the case: 30 percent say so in April, compared to 19 percent who said so last month. This vaulted this factor to the top of the list, above “whether the justices’ themselves hold liberal or conservative views,” which now ranks second, at 21 percent. Here, too, the change was driven primarily by Republicans.

The April poll is the latest in a series designed and analyzed by the Foundation’s public opinion research team.

Findings (.pdf)

Chartpack (.pdf)

Toplines (.pdf)