The ObamaCare ruling: A lose-lose proposition for the Supreme Court?

A new Pew poll shows that no matter how the high court rules on the health-care law, most Americans will be unhappy

The Supreme Court's decision on the constitutionality of ObamaCare is expected any day now, and the only thing that seems certain is that the justices aren't going to make many people happy.
(Image credit: Charles E. Shoemaker/CORBIS)

Washington, and much of the rest of the country, is waiting nervously for the Supreme Court to hand down its big decision on the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare. But you might as well "save yourself the bother and just get ticked off now," says Mark Z. Barabak at The Los Angeles Times. According to a new poll from Pew Research Center, Americans will be unhappy no matter how the court rules: Striking down the whole law will dissatisfy 48 percent of people, versus 44 percent who'll be happy; throwing out just the individual mandate bombs, 51 percent to 40 percent; and upholding the whole law fares worse, 51 percent to 39 percent. Is the Supreme Court really bound to lose in the court of public opinion, or is there a path to coming out of this ruling relatively unscathed?

The justices' best bet is to uphold the law: The Supreme Court won't make everyone happy with its ruling, but it can at least assure a skeptical public that it isn't full of partisan hacks, says Juan Williams at The Hill. After a decade of narrow 5–4 conservative victories, from Bush v. Gore to Citizens United, public confidence in the court is "the most fragile it has been in a generation." Another highly political 5–4 split striking down ObamaCare "may do irreparable harm" to the court, and the justice system.

"Defeat of health care law would erode voters' trust in Supreme Court"

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If popularity matters, strike down ObamaCare: "Williams is right that in terms of public confidence, ideally the court would come out with a unanimous or near unanimous decision," says Jonah Goldberg at National Review. But it won't. And given how unpopular the law is, according to other polls, "it's hard for me to see how the public will view a 5–4 decision to uphold a law they don't like as more legitimate than a 5–4 decision to strike down a law they don't like." Ideally, though, the court will ignore the polls and rule based on the specifics of ObamaCare.

"Undermining the voter's trust?"

The only winner in this poll is ignorance: The "most dispiriting" part of the Pew poll is that two years after its passage, only 18 percent of respondents claim to understand the law well, versus 31 percent who don't understand it well or at all, says Greg Sargent at The Washington Post. Broadly speaking, the less people know about the law, the more they want the court to throw it out. Maybe that's bad messaging by Democrats, or "the Right's very successful sowing of confusion," but if the Supreme Court kills ObamaCare, it seems few people will know what they're missing.

"If SCOTUS kills Obamacare, will Americans even know what was lost?"

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