The health reform law’s requirement that nearly all Americans purchase health insurance reliably polls as one of the least popular provisions. It’s at the heart of the Supreme Court cases challenging the Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality and Republican attacks on the health overhaul.

It doesn’t have to be that way. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll out this afternoon finds there’s actually a lot of space to message the individual mandate in a way that really does move public opinion.

Kaiser found, as a baseline, 65 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of the health reform law’s mandated purchase of health insurance. But among those, they found the majority would flip to a positive opinion when they were told that Americans with employer-sponsored insurance really wouldn’t have to deal with the mandate. A handful of other messages also moved the dial:


On the flip side, there’s also a lot of space to turn public opinion even more negative on the individual mandate than it is right now. Only about a third of Americans are inclined to support the mandate. And the vast majority turn negative if they hear that health reform means some people will have to buy insurance they don’t want, or if the Supreme Court challenge comes up:


So there’s a lot of space for health reform messaging to move public opinion on the health reform law. But neither side seems to have capitalized on that so far. The public still remains staunchly split on the Affordable Care Act, and knows as little about it as they did a year ago:


In the political battle over health reform, both sides have a lot of tools at their disposal to shape the message. But so far, neither party looks to be winning.