Authors: Jeanette Torres
(NEW YORK) -- Last month's hearings on the constitutionality of health care reform didn't help its popularity: Public support for President Obama's signature domestic legislation has hit a new low in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, with criticism of the individual mandate as high as ever.
Half the public, moreover, thinks the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the legislation on the basis of the justices' partisan political views rather than the law. Fewer, 40 percent, think impartial legal analysis will carry the day, with the rest unsure.
Fifty-three percent of Americans now oppose the law overall, while just 39 percent support it -- the latter the lowest in more than a dozen ABC/Post polls since August 2009. "Strong" critics, at 40 percent, outnumber strong supporters by nearly a 2-1 margin in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.
Two-thirds continue to say the high court should throw out either the entire law (38 percent) or at least the part that requires most individuals to obtain coverage (29 percent) or face a penalty; just a quarter want the court to uphold the law as is. Those numbers, like views on the law overall, are essentially unchanged from a month ago.
There are political differences: Republicans, who are most likely to oppose the law, are less apt to think the justices will rule on the basis of politics; 41 percent say so, still a not-insubstantial number when it comes to a basic assessment of independent jurisprudence. More Democrats and independents, 55 and 52 percent, respectively, suspect the justices will go political.
As to election politics, the potential repercussions are unclear. Obama's approval rating for handling health care has been more negative than positive steadily since he signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law in March 2010. And the intensity of sentiment has been especially negative, with strong critics exceeding strong supporters by an average of 13 percentage points.
But the president looks better on the issue when compared to the presumptive GOP nominee, Mitt Romney. As noted Tuesday, Obama leads Romney by 10 points (48-38 percent) in trust to handle health care policy. And Romney may have trouble challenging Obama on the individual mandate, given its similarity to provisions in the Massachusetts health care law Romney signed as governor in 2006.
Indeed, among people who oppose the ACA, a relatively tepid 58 percent trust Romney over Obama to handle health care policy. Among ACA supporters, by contrast, 81 percent prefer Obama on the issue.
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