Issue framing and public opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court: an examination of the 2012 healthcare decision
Two years after its signing into law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly called the Affordable Care Act (ACA), underwent a constitutional challenge at the Supreme Court. The Court’s decision to uphold the power of Congress in enacting most of the provisions of the ACA was regarded as a highly salient decision that is thought to have affected the public perception of the law. The focus of this thesis is to determine whether the Supreme Court was able to frame arguments used for or against the ACA in relation to the decision. By organizing and analyzing open-ended responses gathered from a panel survey both before and after the 2012 decision, I sought to determine how arguments used in discussion about the law and institutions regarding it varied after the decision. Findings show that the argument types used to explain individuals’ policy perceptions remained relatively stable throughout the waves. The study presented here offers an in-depth, micro-level effects of a real Court decision on individuals. By focusing on within-subject language change in a tight window around the decision, this approach helps clarify thinking about the relationship between the Court and public opinion.