The Supreme Court’s historic six hours of oral argument about the Affordable Care Act didn’t significantly change public opinion about the law. According the Kaiser Family Foundation Poll the country still remains evenly divided about the whole law. The poll found that 42% favor the law while 43% hold an unfavorable opinion of it. This is mostly unchanged since March, when it was 41% favorable to 40% unfavorable.
The one thing the oral arguments did do, though, was raise awareness about the individual mandate. The coverage slightly eroded the mandate’s already extremely low popularity. In March 66% of Americans held an unfavorable opinion about the mandate and 32% viewed it favorably. In April that rose to 70% unfavorable and 30% favorable. From the Kaiser Health Tracking poll:
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.
American opinions about the health care law seem to be remarkably locked in for the past two years. I doubt anything short of the whole law being repealed or people directly experiencing its full implementation in 2014 will significantly shift opinion about it.
Politically the oral arguments seem to have been a small net negative for Democrats. Having the media spend a week reminding the public about what is arguably the most politically toxic provision Democrats ever championed was not a good week for the party.