The Affordable Care Act and the Power of Meh!

Policy wonks and pundits are waiting in anticipation for tomorrow’s decision on the Affordable Care Act (I know it was one of the first things that crossed my mind this morning as I prepared for the day).  Although social scientists may not be too good at making predictions, I think most of us could  have long ago written the talking points for both sides of the dispute with great accuracy. But what of the public at large? Will the decision factor into their decisions in November? Will the Democrats and Republicans be able to use tomorrow’s decision effectively as a rallying point? I have my doubts.

The newly released NBC/WSJ poll has several questions on the SCOTUS and the Affordable Care Act.

From what you have heard about Barack Obama’s health care plan that was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President in 2010, do you think his plan is a good idea or a bad idea? If you do not have an opinion either way, please just say so.

  • Good idea: 35%
  • Bad idea: 41%
  • Do not have an opinion: 22%
  • Not sure: 2%

I am not certain how the Obama administration will spin a defeat at the Supreme Court (should it be handed a defeat). The obvious take is to present the Supremes as activist and counter-majoritarian. But in a world where only 35 percent think the Affordable Care Act was a “good idea,” will this spin have much traction outside of the 35 percent, who are likely already strong supporters of a second term?

If the Supreme Court rules that the health care law is unconstitutional meaning that it will not be implemented would you be pleased, disappointed, or would you have mixed feelings about it?

  • Very pleased: 27%
  • Somewhat pleased: 10%
  • Somewhat disappointed: 5%
  • Very disappointed: 17%
  • Mixed feelings: 39%
  • Not sure : 2%

Once again, how do you frame a defeat? 37 percent would be pleased, 22 percent would be disappointed, and those who would be pleased appear far more passionate about the issue. But overall, “mixed feelings” carry the day.

Now, if the Supreme Court rules that the part of the health care law called the individual mandate, that requires everyone to either have or buy health insurance is unconstitutional and will not be implemented, do you think this will help you and your family, hurt you and your family, or not make much difference either way?

  • Help: 18%
  • Hurt: 25%
  • Not make difference: 55%
  • Not sure: 2%

This may be the most interesting result. The vast majority of Americans get their healthcare through employers, Medicare or Medicaid. They are already covered and, as a result, they may feel that they don’t really have a dog in the fight when it comes to the personal mandate.

Bottom line: although those with hard positions will praise or curse the outcome, for most voters, I assume the response will be: Meh!

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