A Hart Research Associates Poll released on March 2, finds that by a solid 63-29 majority, American voters want to keep Obamacare intact. The national survey of 800 registered voters, conducted on behalf of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), found that 63 percent of respondents would disapprove, if the Supreme Court restricted the availability of tax credits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with 44 percent strongly disapproving.
By contrast, just 29 percent of American voters would approve of the Supreme Court siding with the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell. A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could eliminate the health care subsidies in 34 states. Only 15 percent strongly favored the Court pulling the federal subsidies and depriving millions of Americans of coverage under the ACA.
According to the poll, even 56 percent of Republican voters want to keep the subsidies in place. 74 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Independents support upholding the subsidies.
Oral arguments in King v. Burwell began on Wednesday. The Hart Research Associates poll highlights the peril Republicans face if the partisan court majority, rules in favor of gutting the Affordable Care Act. A majority of Americans believe that if the conservatives justices overturn key provisions of the ACA, that decision will be based more on politics than on their interpretation of the law. A partisan decision by the conservative justices could create a backlash that spills into electoral politics in 2016.
The American public has expressed a great deal of ambivalence towards the ACA, especially if Obama’s name is attached to it. However, the polling is very clear, that Americans support the healthcare subsidies made possible by the ACA, and that they strongly oppose the Supreme Court removing those subsidies. The Supreme Court does not have to answer to public opinion for the next election cycle, but Republican candidates do. Those candidates could suffer the consequences if the court decides to cripple Obamacare, with what appears to be a blatantly partisan ruling.
Furthermore, the Roberts Court will have an opportunity to define its legacy in King v. Burwell. If the court upholds the ACA, that decision will, at least partially, preserve the Supreme Court’s image as a mostly impartial arbiter of constitutionality. However, if the Roberts Court decides instead to throw millions of Americans off of their health insurance, they will be remembered in the same breath as the justices that presided over the Plessy v. Ferguson and Dred Scott cases.
Not only would the ruling antagonize the many Americans who would lose their health care coverage, but it would also create a backlash against the GOP at the polls. In addition, the Roberts Court would forever be remembered as the court that robbed Americans of affordable health care, and the five justices who ruled against the healthcare subsidies, would die in infamy.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.