By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY
Americans are split down the middle on the Supreme Court's decision to uphold President Obama's health care law, but a slim majority of them want part or all of the law repealed, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows.
The poll, taken Thursday after the high court's 5-4 ruling declared the law constitutional, is likely to boost Republicans' efforts to repeal it in Congress and elect candidates in November who vow to keep up the fight.
More than four in five Republicans in the poll disagree with the court's ruling, while nearly four in five Democrats agree with it. Independents are split - although 50% of them favor at least partial repeal, compared with 40% who want to keep the law intact or expand on it.
The poll shows clear differences between those who favor and those who oppose the decision. Women, minorities, singles and young adults are more supportive. Men, whites, married people and those over 30 lean against it.
Asked what action Congress should take now that the court has ruled, 31% say the entire law should be repealed, and 21% say parts of it should be. On the other side, 25% say Congress should expand health care even further; 13% say no further action should be taken.
On both questions - support for the decision and next steps - economics plays a role in Americans' views. Those faring well are more likely to support the decision, while those struggling financially lean against it and are more likely to favor repeal.
By more than 2 to 1, those polled say politics played too great a role in the court's decision. That view is most frequently expressed by opponents of the decision - 80% of Republicans and 67% of independents say they feel that way, compared with 47% of Democrats.
The poll shows how important health care might be in the November elections. Four in five Americans say they will consider candidates' views on the issue; 21% say they will vote only for candidates who share their opinions. Opponents of the law are more likely to demand such fealty.
The health care law, passed in March 2010, is designed to expand health coverage to about 30 million Americans - mostly low-income or young and healthy - by requiring that most people get insurance or pay a penalty.
The court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, ruled that the law was constitutional because the penalty takes the form of a tax on those without health insurance. It did not uphold the law on broader grounds that requiring people to get health insurance constitutes a form of interstate commerce regulated by Congress.
Four liberal justices voted to uphold the law on both those grounds. Four conservative justices voted to strike down the entire law. Roberts - a conservative nominated by George W. Bush in 2005 - was the swing vote.
In the wake of the decision, Obama vowed to push forward with full implementation of the law, while his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, said he would seek to repeal it if elected.
House Republicans aren't waiting that long. They scheduled a repeal vote for July 11, but although it is likely to pass, it stands little chance of moving in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
How much health care will matter at the polls this fall remains unclear. A separate Gallup Poll taken this month found only 6% of Americans rated it as the nation's most important problem.
By contrast, 26% named it the top problem in the summer of 2009, when Obama was pushing Congress to pass a law; 31% said the same thing in 1994, during Bill Clinton's effort to overhaul the nation's health care system.
The USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 1,012 adults has a margin of error of +/-4 percentage points.
Copyright 2012 USA TODAY