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Social media users welcome health care ruling but see November peril for Obama

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne and MSNBC political analyst Charlie Cook debate the role of health care in the presidential race.

Most social media users approve of the Supreme Court's health care ruling last week but believe it will help Republicans in the November election, according to msnbc.com's computer-assisted analysis of tens of thousands of posts on Twitter and Facebook.

M. Alex Johnson M. Alex Johnson is a reporter for msnbc.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

The court upheld nearly all of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on a 5-4 vote Thursday. The consensus in news reports and among political pundits was that the ruling was a major victory for President Barack Obama.

But among people who use social networking sites, 56 percent of those who stated a clear opinion on the decision's political impact said they thought it was more likely to energize Republican voters in November. Forty-four percent said it was likely to be more helpful for Democrats.

(Msnbc.com analyzed 175,000 Twitter and Facebook posts mentioning the ruling from midday Thursday through midday Monday. The analysis uses a tool called ForSight, a data platform developed by Crimson Hexagon Inc., which is used by many media and research organizations to gauge public opinion in new media. Crimson Hexagon reports a 3-percentage-point margin of sampling error for this type of online sentiment analysis.)

More social media analysis from NBCPolitics.com

Overall, 60 percent of online commenters approved of the decision, with many of them telling stories about how it would have an immediate impact on their families.

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Writing on Facebook, Cathy Weller of Cocoa Beach, Fla., described herself as "a fiscal conservative, libertarian leaning, social progressive." She wrote of losing her health insurance when she lost her job and the difficulty she had insuring herself because of her pre-existing condition — cancer:

All of a sudden I found myself researching health insurance options. Imagine my surprise to find there were none. None. Not a few expensive ones, but none. It didn't matter if I was willing to pay $10,000 a month for health insurance, it was just not available to me, anywhere for any amount of money. This was the first time I personally came up against the issue of health insurance availability having worked constantly up to that point and always having employer offered insurance.

Of opponents of the act, Weller wrote: "I wonder at their sense of security. Do they really imagine themselves to be invulnerable to what so many fellow citizens are going through?"

Nearly a quarter of those supporting the decision stressed its impact on ending what they see as a bias against women in the current health care system.

Among them was Lisa Kitinoja of Eugene, Ore., who administers a nonprofit organization:


Many opponents complained that the act would make health care more expensive, including Darren Perkins of Kansas City, Mo.:


Others saw it as unconstitutionally giving the federal government too much control over people's lives, like Andrew Hastings, an engineer in San Diego:


The 60 percent-to-40 percent split among social media users in favor of the ruling runs counter to public opinion surveys, which generally indicate that a slight majority opposes the health care act. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Sunday put support at 48 percent.

The social media results, however, could be a reflection of rising support since the Supreme Court ruling. The Reuters/Ipsos poll, for example, found that before Thursday, support was only 43 percent before rising to 48 percent. (Support in msnbc.com's analysis also showed support trending up since the ruling, hitting 62 percent Monday.)

They also may be explained by the demographics of the social media audience. The Pew Internet & American Life Project, which uses ForSight in its statistical analysis of social media, reported in March that people who identify themselves as liberal are more likely to use social networking sites than are people who self identify as conservatives.

Even so, commenters concluded that Republicans would benefit from the ruling politically more than Democrats, by 56 percent to 44 percent.

Mike Wasylik, a lawyer in Tampa, Fla., wrote:


Chris Twining, a computer consultant in Wildomar, Calif., explained on Facebook:


And Michael Gorka of Newport News, Va., said:


Real-world evidence may support that analysis — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign reported that Friday was its biggest fundraising day from individual donors so far.

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