The Supreme Court just can’t win on health care

at 02:25 PM ET, 06/18/2012

There’s basically no winning for the Supreme Court when it rules on President Obama’s health care law next week.

A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows more Americans will be unhappy than happy regardless of what the court rules — whether it upholds the law, strikes it down entirely, or strikes down the individual insurance mandate and leaves the rest alone.

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But on the whole, the most popular decision appears to be tossing the whole law out, which earns the approval of 44 percent of Americans and 50 percent of electorally crucial independents. And opposition to the law remains significantly stronger than support.

Conversely, just 35 percent of independents would be happy if the law is upheld entirely, while 44 percent would approve of just striking down the individual mandate.

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The poll shows these independents remain strongly opposed to the law by a 55 percent-to-36 percent margin, including 38 percent who strongly disapprove of it and just 18 percent who strongly support it.

The data, taken as a whole, clearly suggest that the law remains more unpopular than popular with the political middle. But there are also no easy answers, and people are prepared to be disappointed by whatever the court rules.

That uncertainty over just how the American people will react complicates whatever either side might have planned for the aftermath of the decision.

While Republicans would certainly cheer if the entire law is thrown out, do they also cheer if the individual mandate is thrown out — a result that a plurality of independents wouldn’t approve of?

And if the entire law is upheld, do Democrats start pressing the issue (as North Dakota Democratic Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp did today), knowing that a strong majority of independents don’t like the decision?

Similarly, the court’s looming decision on Arizona's immigration law is likely to create some pretty stark divisions. While 69 percent of whites approve of the law, 75 percent of Hispanics disapprove of it.

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