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A week after Supreme Court decision, Americans still divided

David Walls-Kaufman yells outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 28, 2012 in Washington, D.C.

Jeremy Hobson:  It's been exactly a week since the Supreme Court announced that President Obama's health care overhaul is constitutional.

Which brings us to Attitude Check: our weekly partnership with the polling firm Gallup. Frank Newport is Gallup's editor-in-chief and he joins us now. Good morning.

Frank Newport: Good morning.

Hobson: Well, last time we talked, Frank, it was right before the Supreme Court ruling came out and you told me that the law as a whole was unpopular. Has that changed in the polling since the decision?

Newport: There have been a number of polls that have been conducted since the decision last Thursday by the Supreme Court, and all of them show not a lot of change -- that Americans are still very divided. They were divided on the decision by the Supreme Court and they were divided about the law, itself. So I’m not sure if, so far, if at any rate -- maybe it will be a long term change -- that the decision by the Supreme Court actually changed anybody’s attitude about the Affordable Care Act.

Hobson: How do Americans think that the healthcare law -- now that it looks like it’s going to go into effect in full -- how do they think it will affect the economy?

Newport: I don’t think anybody knows, even your most brilliant Nobel prize winning economist, how it’s really going to affect the economy when it’s phased in over the next several years. Certainly, the average American doesn’t have a precise knowledge but perception is reality -- that’s what we measure here at Gallup.

So we just finished asking, this week: All in all will it be helpful or hurtful for the economy? We find a tilt towards Americans saying the ACA -- Affordable Care Act -- will hurt the economy by a 46 to 37 percent margin. So these perceptions are -- and again this is important because the economy is the top problem Americans tell us. That’s a negative for those who favor the ACA because Americans say based on their guess it’s going to hurt the economy more than help it.

Hobson: And do we know why they think that?

Newport: We don’t know for sure why and I’m not sure, as I say, anybody knows. You know hospital stocks went up, it may help that portion of the economy; it may hurt small business. Nobody really knows long-term. I think a lot of these are just knee jerk reactions to liking or not liking the plan. But the fact that Americans do tie it into the economy is important because that could drive their perceptions of the act overall and of course, how they might vote let’s say for example, Obama versus Romney.

Hobson: And I want to ask you about that Frank, because obviously, Mitt Romney’s health care overhaul in Massachusetts has been called the model for President Obama’s health care overhaul federally and I wonder do people make a distinction in terms of who they want to handle health care going forward between Romney and Obama?

Newport: Yeah, Obama has the edge there. In fact there has been some polling that was conducted since last Thursday’s decision where you said: “Do you trust Obama on health care? Do you trust Romney on health care?” and Obama clearly has the edge on Romney, as he has in the past. So all in all, it is a perceptual edge for the president rather than Romney on health care.

Hobson: Frank Newport, editor-in-chief at Gallup, thanks a lot.

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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