Despite media coverage, 45% of Americans don’t know what Supreme Court ruled on health care

Pew | Politico | WWD | Mediaite
Nearly one-third of Americans (30 percent) surveyed don’t know how the United States Supreme Court ruled on the Affordable Care Act last week; another 15 percent think the law was overturned, says the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Nineteen percent of Republicans, 13 percent of independents and 11 percent of Democrats thought the court had struck down the Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional.

Age factored into knowledge of the ruling, too:

There are substantial age differences in news interest in the decision, as well as in awareness of what the court decided. Only about quarter of those younger than 30 (24%) followed news about the court’s health care decision very closely. That compares with 42% of those 30 to 49 and majorities of those 50 to 64 (56%) and 65 and older (62%).

Just 37% of those younger than 30 know that the court upheld most of the law’s provisions; majorities of older age groups know that the court upheld most provisions. Majorities of those who have attended college answered this correctly, compared with 44% of those with a high school education or less.

CNN and Fox executives can stop worrying about their missteps on Thursday, since reporting correctly apparently wouldn’t have mattered to a large number of Americans anyway. On the other hand, a recent study by Fairleigh Dickinson University showed that people who watch no news could answer more questions about international current events accurately than people who watch cable news, so one could see an argument for getting things right in the future.

According to a CNN poll released yesterday, the percentage of Americans who “oppose most” of the health-care law has stayed steady since January, while the percentage of people who “favor most” of the act has risen slightly. A Kaiser poll also released Monday “found 25 percent of Americans view the health care law as ‘very favorable,’ the highest number since the organization began polling the issue in April 2010,” Reid J. Epstein reports in Politico.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board is, to say the least, not among those viewing the law favorably. On Monday it published an 1,848-word assault on the ruling. Such an allocation of ed-page real estate is rare, reports WWD’s Erik Maza:

A quick review of Factiva, which Dow Jones owns, shows that only a handful of the board’s op-eds since 1980 can be considered long reads. And all of them have come during the tenure of [Editorial page editor Paul] Gigot, who became editor of the page in 2001. Among the subjects the board considered important enough to go long: a 9/11 anniversary, PBS funding, and The New York Times’ handling of classified intelligence.

A Journal spokesperson wouldn’t tell Maza whether Joe Rago or Paul Gigot wrote the long piece. (Interesting note: The WSJ styles the act’s nickname as “ObamaCare.”)

Finally, Bill O’Reilly sort of fulfilled his promise to admit to being an idiot if the individual mandate wasn’t voided, Meenal Vamburkar notes. Vamburkar transcribes O’Reilly’s Monday night show:

I apologize for not factoring in the John Roberts situation. Truthfully, I never in a million years would thought the chief justice would go beyond the scope of the commerce clause to date and into taxation. I may be an idiot for not considering that.

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  • Andrew Beaujon

    I guess it’s possible, but we’re talking about a very short window in which both got this wrong. A lot of viewers would have to have tuned in and out with surgical precision to be misinformed about what happened! 

  • Jeremy G. Burton

    “CNN and Fox executives can stop worrying about their missteps on Thursday, since reporting correctly apparently wouldn’t have mattered to a large number of Americans anyway.”

    Andrew: Isn’t it possible that at least some percentage of those mistaken Americans are misinformed exactly because they caught wind early of CNN’s and Fox’s reports and then stopped following the story? Unless I’m missing something here, your conclusion seems to be a leap from these poll numbers, which might actually reflect just the opposite effect from the missteps on TV. Having misled perhaps as much as 15 percent of the country, I sure hope Fox and CNN don’t feel they can now “stop worrying.”