March 4, 2015

Opinions on Obamacare remain divided along party lines as Supreme Court hears new challenge

Views of Health Care Law, 2010-2015After clearing a major legal hurdle with the Supreme Court three years ago, the Affordable Care Act faces another high court battle this week that could deal a major blow to the law. This time, the question is whether four words – “established by the state” – are enough to invalidate a vital part of the health care law.

About five years after President Barack Obama’s signature health care law passed, more than 11 million Americans have signed up for health insurance through the program. And public opinion has remained steady: A greater share disapproves (53%) than approves (45%) of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Feb. 18-22. As was the case even before the original bill came up for a vote in Congress, public opinion regarding the program continues to fall along party lines, with nearly nine-in-ten Republicans (87%) against the 2010 health care law and roughly eight-in-ten Democrats (78%) in support of it. Independents disapprove of the ACA by a margin of 58%-39%.

Last September, More Were Seeing the Health Care Law's ImpactRecently, Americans said they had been starting to see the effects of the health care law in action. Those who said it has had a negative effect on the country overall outnumbered those who said it has been positive by 45% to 33%, according to a September survey. Just 18% said the law hadn’t had much of an effect on the country.

When it came to the law’s effect on people personally, however, most Americans (54%) said the health care law had not had an effect on them or their family up until that point. About one-in-four Americans (26%) said the impact of the law on them personally had been negative, compared with 19% who said it had been positive.

This week’s Supreme Court case, King v. Burwell, will decide whether the federal government can subsidize health insurance for some lower- and middle-income people living in states that chose not to establish their own exchanges. Some predict that the entire health care law will be on “life support” if the court invalidates the federal subsidies. Thirty-four states’ exchanges would be upended and more than 6 million would lose the subsidies that help them afford their health insurance.

Views of Health Care Law, 2010-2015The Supreme Court’s decision in the case could impact how the public views the institution. Americans’ views of the high court are near their lowest point in at least the past few decades. As the court has handed down decisions on highly politicized cases in recent years, it has seen ebbs and flows in support from Democrats and Republicans.

For example, after the Supreme Court ruled to keep intact much of the health care law in summer 2012, 64% of Democrats said they viewed the court favorably, compared with just 38% of Republicans. But after the court’s session last June, which included a conservative victory on contraception in the Hobby Lobby case, the court’s favorability rose to 53% among Republicans and fell to 52% among Democrats. Overall, we found in that survey last July, about half of the public (52%) had a favorable opinion of the Supreme Court and 38% viewed it unfavorably.

The public remains just as divided about the ideology of the nine-member group as two years ago. About as many say the court is liberal (26%) as conservative (27%), while a 38% plurality calls it “middle of the road,” relatively unchanged from 2012.

ACA Remains Deeply Partisan; Public Divided Over Future of the LawGoing forward, there are mixed views about what will happen with the health care law. In last month’s Pew Research Center survey, the public was divided in predicting the ACA’s fate: Half (50%) said its major provisions “are probably here to say,” while 45% thought they “will probably be eliminated.”

Republicans and Democrats are split regarding the law’s fate. About six-in-ten Republicans (58%) expect the law’s major provisions to be eliminated, but 38% don’t; an identical 58% of Democrats think the important parts are here to stay, but 36% predict they will be eliminated.

Topics: Barack Obama, Health Care, U.S. Political Parties

  1. is a research analyst focusing on U.S. politics and policy at Pew Research Center.


  1. Ron Gregg2 years ago

    What are the specific reasons why people either oppose or favor the ACA. Is there any data on positions of people that are covered by employer plans separated from people who have no employer coverage?

  2. Dr HM Giao2 years ago

    Something we rarely hear about … I’ve found at least one story that refers to a CNN poll in 2013. You can do a search using [insurancenewsnet dot com] to find the headline: “Only 35% of Americans Oppose ACA as too liberal.” See the following:

    “A recent CNN/ORC International poll illustrates how attitudes on health reform have evolved over a few short years. As of May, 43 percent of Americans favor the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare). And, 35 percent oppose it as too liberal. But, another 16 percent oppose it because it is not liberal enough, a fact you do not hear about very often.”

    If you do the math, 43 + 16 = 59% who favor the ACA or want to see more government control such as a public option versus … 35% who consider ObamaCare too liberal. Has Pew ever included a follow-up question asking the basis for disapproval of ACA?

  3. Ted Leonardini2 years ago

    Divided along party lines because of the irrational divisions created by political parties. A person without party affiliation would be able to determine that the ACA as written and enforced is an affront to the Constitution and to individual freedoms.

  4. Richard Tebaldi2 years ago

    I hope ObamaCare is overturned. Our Government has been the major “too big to fail” bailout by we taxpayers. Look at our National debt clock! It’s disgusting! Spend and tax is the name of the game. The biggest expenditure is WASTE! We need to start over and make people who spend our money responsible for doing the right thing, or they should not be spending our tax money. PAC money and SUPERPACK money needs to be abolished. Big Pharma, big business, are using some of the money we pay for overpriced goods to work against American taxpayers.We don’t get represented with tax money and because PAC and SuperPac money comes from the taxpayers, we are constantly the losers. CONGRESS has been self serving allowing this to happen. Both parties are fighting each other instead of doing what’s right for America. Like Dale Carnegy “I am Mad and I won’t take it any more!”

  5. Margaret Sweeny2 years ago

    Seth Motel and Pew Research, you harm your credibility in introducing your 3/4/2015 results about The Affordable Care Act, by referring to it as Obamacare. If that is what you called it when you conducted your survey, you improperly introduced a bias against it.

  6. Packard Day2 years ago

    Anyone who has been an investor in the Obamacare healthcare insurance industry (e.g. AETNA, Humana, Cigna, and WellPoint) these past six years knows very well how extraordinarily beneficial the ACA has been to them and their portfolios. A $100K investment in the above companies back on March 9, 2009 is now worth nearly $400K today. Good stuff!…So God bless America, Barack Obama, and crony capitalism too…ehh?

    1. Ted Leonardini2 years ago

      Indeed. This president and Congress (current and past) are all beholden to corporate donors, not to their sworn duties, nor to the American people.

  7. tom swank2 years ago

    What’s with the email address? I feel that Obamacare has positive parts such as Affordable health care for everyone and people with pre-existing conditions should not prohibit insurance. I don’t believe that non-citizens of the United States should be included and that every person enrolled, should pay his fair share. As usual, the middle class is taking it in the ass as far as paying for this insurance. The wealthy can afford it and many of the poor don’t pay anything even though they receive so called entitlements. I and many other middle class people would pay 5 or 6 dollars to subsidize this program but that’s not the case. I’m on medicare, which I paid for year after year. My premium went up 400 percent. I’ve talked with other people who’s premium went from 1500. a year to 3,000 a year. The government and Obama stuck it to us once again. Until the American people get off their butts and make congress have the same benefits as we do, nothing is going to change. I wonder how the Supreme Court would vote if they were on the same playing field as most of Americans!