Voters Buy Tax-Talk in Health Care

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A majority of voters consider President Barack Obama’s health-care law to be a tax increase, leaving the White House to defend an election-year vow not to raise levies on the middle class, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.

By a margin of 55 percent to 36 percent, those surveyed said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amounts to a tax increase. Participants were less sure of what they thought about the future of the law, saying by a near-tie of 48 percent to 45 percent that the U.S. Supreme Court was right to uphold it, while also saying by 49 percent to 43 percent that Congress should repeal it.

The view voters hold of the law as a tax might pose a problem for Obama as he takes on former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the November presidential election, said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Hamden, Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“Obama has worked mightily to avoid the ‘T’ word,” Brown said in an e-mailed statement accompanying the poll, conducted July 1-8. The main question is whether Republicans can convince voters that the health-care law “breaks his promise not to raise taxes on those who make less than $250,000,” Brown said.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in writing the 5-4 opinion upholding the law, contended that Congress had approved a mandate that most Americans obtain insurance, or pay a penalty, under its taxing power. The White House has said the penalty is not a tax, while Romney has maintained that it amounts to a tax — unlike the requirement and penalty included in a law enacted while he was governor.

Results released from the same poll yesterday found Obama leading Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, by 46 percent to 43 percent, helped by a 2-1 advantage among single women.

Romney and his fellow Republicans have been hammering Obama on the tax issue since the Supreme Court ruling last month.Yesterday, the Republican-controlled House voted once again to repeal the health-care law; the Senate has no plans to take up the measure and Obama has vowed to veto it.

Most respondents in the poll said the Supreme Court decision won’t affect their vote; 27 percent said it would make them less likely to vote for Obama and 12 percent said it would make them more likely to support the president.

Overall, 55 percent of voters said a candidate’s position on health-care policy is either extremely or very important to them.

Americans are split, 48 percent to 47 percent, on whether everyone should have to carry health insurance, the poll found.

Women support the mandate 50 percent to 45 percent; men oppose it by the same margin.

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