Public divided on Supreme Court issues 

Since June is the end of the Supreme Court’s term, a number of important rulings are expected this month. With six conservative justices now, Democrats can expect setbacks.

The New York Times has predicted, however, that the Affordable Care Act will survive its third Supreme Court challenge. 

In December 2018 a Federal judge in Texas ruled that, since the individual mandate requiring citizens to buy insurance no longer imposes a tax, it is illegal, and the mandate is such a major part of the ACA that the entire act is void.  

If this ruling stands, there will be no requirement that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions or basic medical services, no limits on rate increases, no requirement that companies extend family coverage to children up to age 26, no subsidies for those with low incomes, and no Medicaid for those with incomes between 100% and 138% of the poverty level. 

Ironically, President Obama accepted the mandate only because insurance companies claimed that requiring them to cover pre-existing conditions meant no one would pay for insurance until they were ill. Republicans then eliminated the penalty for not having insurance.  

In April a team involving researchers from Stanford, Harvard, and the University of Texas polled a sample of voters on how they’d stand on coming court cases.  Over 55% saw the individual mandate as unconstitutional, but nearly the same majority said that should not affect the rest of the Affordable Care Act. 

May the Court aso split 5-4.  

That poll also indicated the sample representing the American public was evenly divided on most of the issues before the court.  Participants split 50-50 on whether Arizona could destroy complete ballots cast in the wrong precinct even if the voter was otherwise eligible to vote for all or some of the offices on the ballot; on whether a state could make it illegal for someone other than the voter to drop off a ballot; and on whether the NCAA should have the power to prevent colleges and universities from paying athletes. 

 A 52% majority of participants felt the government could not require private for-profit businesses to allow union organizers to enter their premises. A similar margin felt that religious groups should be allowed to place foster children even if they did not accept gay couples as applicants.(It’s not clear whether the government is paying for these placements.)  

No matter how the court rules on these cases, many Americans will be disappointed.

On two issues, though, there was a clear majority.  Sixty percent felt California could require private non-profit organizations to list their donors on reports that would be kept confidential, but aid in investigating fraud. 

Seventy percent felt that a school district could not punish a student for profane posts on social media. The outcome may have been different if the question had made clear that the girl had lost a privilege–that of being on the junior varsity cheerleading squad–rather than the right to any part of a free, public education. (We can wonder who put up the $2 million for appealing  this case)

What impressed me most about the survey, however, was the number of Republicans and Democrats whose opinions differed with their parties’ stand. Twenty-six percent of Democrats supported ending the ACA while 32% of Republicans opposed it. Thirty-five percent of Democrats opposed requiring private business to allow union organizers on their property while 31% of Republicans supported it.  

A party label doesn’t indicate as much as we might imagine.  

You can find the poll at https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/files/scotus-poll/files/scotuspoll-summary2021.pdf.  

Published by Judy Ferro

Judy Ferro is communication director for the 2C Dems and a columnist for the Idaho Press.

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