Americans are about evenly divided along party lines on whether the Affordable Care Act (2010), perhaps more popularly known as Obamacare, should be repealed, but even most Democrats agree that the individual mandate is unconstitutional.
Forty-seven percent would favor repealing the healthcare law if a Republican were elected president, according to the new USA Today/Gallup poll.
Among Democrats, 77 percent oppose repeal. In contrast, 87 percent of Republicans favor repeal. Republicans showed greater intensity in their position than Democrats, however. Fifty-six percent of Republicans said they "strongly favor" repeal, but only 39 percent of Democrats said they "strongly oppose" repeal.
The poll also asked respondents if they think the individual mandate is constitutional or unconstitutional. Seventy-two percent said it is unconstitutional. Though there were some partisan differences, a clear majority of even Democrats, 56 percent, think it is unconstitutional. Ninety-four percent of Republicans and 70 percent of independents said the individual mandate is unconstitutional.
The bill was passed in the summer of 2010 with no Republican votes. Sen. Arlen Specter had switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in the fall of 2009, which gave Democrats the 60 votes they needed to break a filibuster and pass the bill in the Senate.
The law largely built upon previous healthcare laws by expanding Medicaid and mandating broader employer-provided health care coverage.
The most controversial aspects of the law are the requirement to purchase health insurance and, most recently, the requirement that employers provide birth control coverage.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case this year that challenges the constitutionality of the individual mandate. Opponents argue that the Commerce Clause does not give Congress the authority to require Americans to purchase health insurance.
The authority to mandate coverage of contraceptive, sterilization and abortifacient drugs comes from the Affordable Care Act. Critics argue that it violates religious freedom because religious institutions that are opposed to the use of those mandated services would be required to purchase health coverage that offers those services. The controversy over the birth control mandate has, therefore, also become a controversy over the authority given to the federal government in the Affordable Care Act.
All the current Republican presidential candidates advocate repeal of the healthcare law. Both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, the two current Republican front-runners, would block grant Medicaid to the states, expand the use of health savings accounts, and allow consumers to purchase health insurance across state lines.
The poll of 1,040 adults conducted Feb. 20-21 has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.