By Sam Baker - 03/26/12 09:00 AM EDT
Half of likely voters want the Supreme Court to overturn President Obama’s healthcare law, according to The Hill’s latest poll.
Just 42 percent said the court should uphold the law, with 50 percent saying it should be struck down.
Only blacks (74 percent), Democrats (71 percent) and liberals (75 percent) want the law upheld. While even the youngest voters oppose the law (47 percent to 42 percent among those aged 18-39), opposition grows to 53 percent among voters aged 65 and older.
The poll of 1,000 likely voters was conducted by Pulse Opinion Research March 22, a day before the second anniversary of Obama’s signing of the law and just four days before the high court begins oral arguments Monday in a landmark challenge.
Most surveys have shown public disapproval of the new law relatively constant since it was signed, and The Hill poll confirms that pattern.
The latest results are in line with responses from a Hill Poll last September in which 48 percent of likely voters said it would be a good thing if the Supreme Court overturns the healthcare law. Thirty-eight percent said it would be a bad thing.
The stagnant approval ratings are a frustration for Democrats, who had hoped the public would warm to healthcare reform once the heated rhetoric of the legislative debate died down. But now the law is back in the limelight — and in conservatives’ crosshairs — ahead of the Supreme Court arguments.
Although voters want the court to strike the law, they don’t necessarily trust the justices’ motivations. Fifty-six percent of likely voters believe the justices are swayed by their own political beliefs, while just 27 percent believe they “make impartial decisions based on their reading of the Constitution.”
Skepticism about the justices relying on their political beliefs ran consistently among age, racial and philosophical categories, with a majority of whites (54 percent), blacks (59 percent), Republicans (56 percent), Democrats (59 percent), conservatives (54 percent), centrists (56 percent) and liberals (59 percent) expressing the same viewpoint.
Those findings could help bolster a point some Democrats have made about the healthcare ruling. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) told The Hill last week that “if the decision is 5-4, basically Republican versus Democratic appointees on the court, I think a lot of people will look at that as they did at [the Supreme Court decision to put President Bush in power],” Waxman said. “I’m sure they have on their minds that they don’t want to come across as looking political.”
But although a majority wants the law struck down, 52 percent of likely voters said if it is upheld the quality of their healthcare would either remain the same (30 percent) or actually get better (22 percent).
Among white voters, 49 percent said they feel the law will leave the quality of their personal health care about the same (30 percent) or better (19 percent), while 45 percent said it would make that health care worse.
Among blacks, 85 percent said it would keep things about the same (44 percent) or improve the quality of their care (41 percent), while just 14 percent said it would become worse.
Forty-two percent said it would get worse under the law. Only among Republicans (65 percent) did a majority say the quality of their healthcare would get worse if the law was upheld.
The sustained political and legal attack on Obama’s healthcare law has helped keep its approval ratings low, but it doesn’t appear to have helped Republicans. The GOP has struggled with the “repeal” part of its “repeal and replace” agenda for healthcare, and The Hill’s latest survey shows that neither party has an advantage on the healthcare issue.
Republicans and Democrats tied at 44 percent when voters were asked which party they trust more on healthcare. Independents slightly favored Democrats, 40 percent to 37 percent, but that result matched the poll’s margin of error.
Whites favored Republicans 47 percent to 41 percent, but blacks favored Obama and the Democrats 75 percent to 19 percent.
Finally, 76 percent of those polled said they’d be paying more attention this week to the Supreme Court arguments than to the NCAA basketball tournament. A mere 14 percent said basketball would get more of their attention.
Making matters easier, there are no basketball games scheduled during the court’s three-day arguments.