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American People Still Really Hate the Individual Mandate

Even after almost two years since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the individual mandate continues to be as unpopular as always. An overwhelming 2/3rds of the county holds an unfavorable view of the mandate and the majority thinks the Supreme Court should strike it down. From Kaiser Family Foundation poll:

As for the public’s own views of the mandate, the January poll shows that the requirement that everyone obtain health insurance or pay a fine continues to be unpopular. This month’s poll finds the public more than twice as likely to have an unfavorable rather than favorable view of the provision (67% to 30%), very much in line with findings of previous Kaiser polls. Reflecting this dislike for a mandate, 54 percent of Americans say the Court should rule the individual mandate unconstitutional, while just 17 percent say they think it should be found constitutional. Roughly mirroring public views on the mandate, 55 percent of the public say they expect the Justices to find the mandate unconstitutional and 29 percent expect the Justices to find it constitutional.

The individual mandate was clearly politically toxic long before the Democrats voted for the law and it has remained politically toxic ever since. The Democrats had both ample warning and ample time to replace it with a less controversial and unquestionably constitutional alternative to encourage individuals to get insurance. Such a modest correction would have been easy to make right before passage to increase support for the law.

I don’t know if I can think of another policy that was ever viewed so unfavorably by the electorate yet was still very publicly pushed forward by one party. The disdain this move showed toward public opinion played an important role in driving the conservative energy that allowed the GOP to win a historic victory in the House. The fact that Democrats could have easily avoided this political problem yet actively choose not to makes it one of the greatest unforced political errors in American politics.

Given how many people actually expect the Supreme Court to strike down the mandate, it is hard to guess whether a favorable ruling for the administration would be a political positive or negative for Obama. On one hand, the court upholding the mandate could get people to resign themselves to the idea of the mandate and the new law.

On the other hand, most of the people who currently hate the mandate are expecting the Court to take care of it for them. They currently don’t think they need a Republican to win the Presidency for the highly unpopular mandate to go away. If the Court doesn’t get rid of it as these people expect, that could give many a new incentive to help elect Republicans in order for the GOP to get rid of the mandate with legislation.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at