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Kaiser Health Tracking Poll — March 2012

As the oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) begin in two weeks before the Supreme Court, the March Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that Americans’ views on the case mirror their views on the health reform law and that they expect parts of the ACA to continue whatever the Court rules.

The poll finds that half of all Americans (51%) think the Court should rule the mandate unconstitutional and about the same number (53%) expect the justices to do so. Those views about what the Court should do reflect public opinion about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) more generally.

The public also does not see the mandate as the linchpin of the entire law. Sixty-two percent say other parts of the law still will be implemented if the Court rules the mandate unconstitutional, compared to 28 percent who say such a ruling will scuttle the whole effort. The poll also finds substantial public skepticism towards the Court; about as many people say the justices’ ideological views will play a major role in their decision (51%) as say their analysis and interpretation of the law (54%) will play a major role.

As the two-year anniversary of the law approaches, the public remains chronically divided. The public is almost perfectly split: 41 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of the law this month, while 40 percent hold an unfavorable one — not terribly different from the 46 percent who favored it and 40 percent who did not in April 2010. Opinions divide sharply along partisan lines, with Republicans disliking the law (75% have an unfavorable view of it this month), Democrats favoring it (66% favorable) and independents more divided (40% favorable vs. 42% unfavorable).

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

Findings (.pdf)

Chartpack (.pdf)

Toplines (.pdf)

Related Column by Drew Altman, The ACA and Fluoridation: The Power of Political Symbols