Washington (CNN) – Most Americans don't want the Supreme Court to completely overturn the landmark yet controversial 2010 federal health care reform law, but only a quarter of the public wants to see the high court leave the measure alone, according to a new national survey.
And a CNN/ORC International poll also indicates that while the two year old law is growing in popularity, especially among independent voters, half of all Americans still oppose it, although some who disapprove of the measure do so because they think it's not liberal enough.
The poll's Monday release comes as the Supreme Court began hearing three days of potentially landmark oral arguments over the constitutionality of the sweeping health care measure, formally know as the Affordable Care Act, which was championed by President Barack Obama and passed by a Democratic controlled Congress.
According to the poll, 43% of Americans approve of the law, up five points from last November, with 50% saying they disapprove, down six points from last autumn. Of those who currently disapprove of the measure, 37% say they oppose the law because it's too liberal, with 10% saying the give the measure a thumbs down because it's not liberal enough.
"The views of Republicans and Democrats on the health care law have barely budged since last year," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But support among independents grew from 32 percent to 41 percent since November."
The survey indicates that 23% want the Supreme Court to leave the current law as is, with 43% saying some provisions should be overturned, and three in ten saying the justices should overturn the entire measure.
The principle question before the justices is whether the requirement that people buy health insurance is unconstitutional. The provision, known as the "individual mandate," was designed to help more people get affordable health insurance coverage - including the 49 million uninsured today - and bring health costs under control.
The health insurance mandate splits the public right down the middle, with a bare 51% majority of those questioned saying that they oppose it and 47% favoring the provision.
"Most women support the individual mandate," Holland notes. "Most men oppose it."
The potentially landmark arguments over the constitutionality of the sweeping health care law is one of the most politically charged cases in recent years in from of the Supreme Court. With a divided bench, do Americans think the justices will base their decisions mostly on an objective interpretation of the law? Fifty percent say that the justices' decisions will be based mostly on their personal political views, with 46% saying their decisions will based on an objective interpretation of the law. That may be one reason why six in ten Americans would like to see the Supreme Court allow televisions cameras into the courtroom when the justices hear arguments.
Will the Supreme Court's decisions on the health care law affect the general election in November? Maybe not. More than three-quarters say their vote would be unaffected if the high court strikes down all or part of the health care law, and the president might wind up gaining as much support as he would lose.
"One reason: only one in ten Americans say that health care is the most important issue facing the country today; more than half continue to name the economy as the country's top problem," adds Holland.
The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International Saturday and Sunday, with 1,014 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.
– CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.