A new poll done for NPR by a bipartisan polling team shows the Affordable Care Act still stirring deep political division in the weeks after the Supreme Court upheld the law's constitutionality. But while much of the country remains strongly opposed to the law popularly known as Obamacare, a bare majority (51 percent) favors the idea of amending rather than repealing it.
The poll found that a plurality still disapproved of the law itself (48 percent to 43 percent), but a similar-sized plurality (47 percent to 46 percent) approved of the Supreme Court's June 28 decision upholding its constitutionality. Most voters (58 percent) said that decision did not alter their own opinion of the law, but 21 percent said the decision made them more likely to approve of the law and 16 percent said it made them less likely to do so.
Among other notable findings, the poll by Democrat Stan Greenberg of Democracy Corps and Republican Whit Ayres of Resurgent Republic found most Americans (60 percent) still think the country is on the wrong track.
The poll found 49 percent of respondents approving of President Obama's job performance, just below the 50 percent mark that is a watershed for incumbents seeking re-election. Those saying they "strongly disapprove" (36 percent) were more numerous than those saying they "strongly approve" (26 percent). Still, in a head-to-head race with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the president had a slight advantage, 47 percent to 45 percent.
The poll of 1,000 likely voters was taken between July 9 and 12 in a nationwide sample that included an oversample of 462 voters living in the 12 "battleground states" considered crucial to the outcome. In those states, the Obama-Romney matchup was dead even at 46 percent for each.
These dozen states all voted for Obama over Sen. John McCain in 2008, but polls have shown all to be competitive in varying degrees this year. The battleground states are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Respondents were also asked to rate Congress, and 74 percent said they disapproved. The disapproval was consistently above 70 percent among respondents who were identified as Democrats, Republicans or independents. It was also above 70 percent in the battleground states.
The poll found Democrats with an edge in party identification of 7 percentage points, but it found Republican respondents more often saying they were absolutely certain to vote (85 percent) than Democrats (76 percent) or independents (75 percent).
When each of the pollsters was allowed to fashion and present an argument for and against the health care law, the choice was between repealing the law outright (the Republican Party position) and amending it to improve it and moving on (the Democratic case). In this formulation, a narrow majority (51 percent) said they favored amendment, improvement and moving on. That position was also favored by voters in the battleground states, 53 percent to 44 percent.
The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for the full poll of 1,000. For the battleground states, the margin of error was 4.5 percentage points.
Update at 3:05 p.m. on July 20:
An additional note about the poll's health care results: On the question of amending the Affordable Care Act vs. repealing it for economic reasons, the results among party members are pretty predictable: Democrats overwhelmingly favor the Democratic position and Republicans the GOP stance. When it comes to Independents, though, they leaned slightly toward the Republican position.