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Don’t Expect Wide Popular Outrage Towards an “Activist” Court

If the Supreme Court strikes down all or part of President Obama’s signature health care law, some Democratic operatives appear to be hoping that outrage towards an out of control “activist”  Supreme Court could be leveraged for politic advantage.  However, polling to date shows that popular outrage over the Court’s  potentialecision against the Act is not likely to materialize.

To begin with many people want the Court to strike down all or part of the law. A Quinnipiac poll from April found 49 percent thought the Court should throw out the law, while 38 percent thought it should uphold it. A Washington Post-ABC News poll from the same month found 67 percent wanted the Court to throw out part or all of the law. The Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll found 51 percent thought the Court should rule against the individual mandate, with just 26 percent thinking it should uphold it.   If the Court does what most people want or expect it to do, it’s unlikely that action will be seen as a real overreach.

Perhaps more importantly, few seem heavily invested in maintaining the law, even though millions could be affected by the Court’s decision.  A new NBC/WSJ poll found a plurality would have simply mixed feelings if the Court strikes down the whole law. Only 17 percent would be very disappointed by this outcome, with another 5 percent somewhat disappointed. Similarly, the poll found a majority, 55 percent, thought the Court striking down the mandate would make no difference to their family.

There is only a small base of strong supporters of the Affordable Care Act. They would likely see the Court ruling against it as an out of control act of judicial activism, but they will likely be in the minority. While the ruling could potentially energize them, I suspect this block nearly perfectly overlaps with Obama’s strongest backers, and they are already as energized at they are likely to get.

Anyone expecting or hoping a Court ruling against the health care law will created a popular backlash against the Court is likely to be very disappointed. Unlike the highly unpopular Citizens United decision, a ruling against the ACA would be relatively popular and expected, not exactly fertile ground for trying to generate popular outrage.

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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