Public support for a key element of President Obama's healthcare reform law is slipping after a federal judge ruled the provision is unconstitutional, according to a poll released Monday. 

A CNN/Opinion Research poll showed that only 38 percent now favor language "requiring all Americans who do not have health insurance to get it." Support fell six points from August, when it was at 44 percent. Opposition to the provision has risen to 60 percent from 56 in August. Support for the individual mandate was at a high in November, when 49 percent said they backed it.

The poll comes after a Virginia federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush struck down the provision, dealing the Obama administration's healthcare law its first major defeat in the courts. 


Experts expect the dispute to reach the Supreme Court; two previous challenges to the mandate were defeated in Virginia and Michigan by judges appointed by President Clinton. 

The individual health insurance mandate is regarded as a central element of the law, but the administration has argued that the law could survive even if the mandate is eventually struck down. 

Republicans in Congress have pledged to vote to repeal the healthcare law entirely next year, when they will control the House and have a more robust minority in the Senate.

Despite the declining popularity of the individual mandate, public support for other reforms included in the law has actually increased.

Backing for language "preventing insurance companies from dropping coverage for people who become seriously ill" ticked up to two points from August, to 61 percent, and support for "preventing health insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions" rose six points, to 64 percent.

Opinion Research polled 1,008 adults between Dec. 17-19, and the poll has a margin of error of three percentage points.