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EXPERT COMMENT: The Public Would Disapprove If Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Reform, Find MU Researchers in Poll

June 12th, 2012

Story Contact: Timothy Wall, 573-882-3346, walltj@missouri.edu

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The imminent Supreme Court decision on health care reform will likely provoke strong, partisan reactions regardless of how the Court decides, but the public will be more disappointed by a decision that upholds health care reform than if the law is struck down, according to research by the University of Missouri Political Economics Research Lab.

“The results of the Supreme Court’s decision are likely to have serious repercussions on the presidential election,” said Jeff Milyo, Middlebush Professor of Social Sciences in the Department of Economics of the College of Arts and Science.

Milyo and Lilliard Richardson, a professor in MU’s Truman School of Public Affairs, conducted a survey to gauge how public confidence in the objectivity and fairness of the Court might change in response to a divided decision that either upheld or struck down the Affordable Care Act. The 1,000 participants in the survey first answered a battery of questions on their approval of health care reform, approval of the Court, and how they expected the Court to decide versus how they thought the court should decide.

Consistent with other national opinion polls, Milyo and Richardson found that most respondents disapproved of health care reform, expected the Court to strike at least part of the law, and preferred that the Court strike down the entire law. Opinions differed markedly by party preference, with Democrats much more favorable toward the law than Republicans.

“Our study noted that the odds on popular betting website, Intrade, suggest the Court is likely to strike down at least part of the law,” Milyo said. “In that event, proponents of health care reform will react strongly and probably attack the integrity of the court. It will be great political theater.”

The study also provided insight into the opposite: what will the public reaction be if the Court decides differently. Milyo and Richardson found that a stronger negative reaction will result if the Court upholds health care reform.

“One lesson from the research is that opinions about controversial Court decisions are less informative about the integrity of the Court and more a reflection of prior beliefs about how the Court should rule,” Milyo said.

The survey was conducted as a part of the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey, a nationally representative survey designed to observe public attitudes before and after elections.

The full report is available from the Political Economics Research Lab at the University of Missouri. For more information, contact Jeff Milyo (milyoj@missouri.edu) or Lilliard Richardson (richardsonle@missouri.edu).

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