Do Americans support the Affordable Care Act?

The Supreme Court will be deciding the constitutionality of the health care reform bill this month, but what does the American public think?

David Brancaccio: Any day now, the bulletin will hit that has the words Supreme Court, health care reform, and either the words constitutional or unconstitutional.  

Heath care reform and public opinion, the subject of Attitude Check, our weekly partnership with Gallup. Let's welcome Frank Newport, Gallup's editor-in-chief, good morning.

Frank Newport: Good morning.

Brancaccio: The White House has said that even if polls showed unease with its health care reform that Americans would grow to love it. Has that happened?

Newport: No it has not. It has been over two years so far. I just reviewed a lot of polling which has been done on the health care act and no matter how it is explained to Americans now, in general with a few exceptions, we have more negative than positive response on the part of the average American. In some polls, the spread is up to ten points or more, that is Americans saying they dislike rather than like the Affordable Care Act that was passed back in 2010.

Brancaccio: Ok that's broad brush, but if you ask Americans so what don't you like about it? What do you hear?

Newport: We see this in policy and other instances as well, they actually like components of the health care act. For example, they like the idea that people with pre-existing conditions can't be denied coverage. They like the idea that kids can ride on their parents' policies. The one thing they do not like -- and this is almost universal in all the polling I've seen -- is the individual mandate. That's the requirement, and actually the core of the whole thing, that all Americans have to get health care coverage to make the whole thing affordable.

Brancaccio: But what does your reading of all this data suggest about how Americans might react to the Supreme Court decision expected this very month?

Newport: I think if the Supreme Court let's it stand, we'll actually have a negative reaction from Americans because as we've been talking about, Americans actually are more negative than positive about the act, particularly about the individual mandate. If the Supreme Court strikes down the mandate and let's the rest stand, that actually would comport most closely, I think, with American public opinion. And of course because we are in an election cycle, everybody asks us how will this Obama and Romney's chances? And boy, that's a complex question, but I don't think we know yet, we're going to have to wait and see how it plays out once the decision comes down.

Brancaccio: Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup, thank you very much.

Newport: My pleasure.

About the author

Frank Newport, Ph.D., is the editor-in-chief at Gallup and appears regularly on Marketplace.

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