Opinion

Gallup poll: Americans' opinion of the Supreme Court fluctuates with big rulings

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Supreme Court,Democratic Party,Polls,Abortion,Hobby Lobby,Becket Adams

Americans are split on their view the Supreme Court, with opinions rising and falling on the political left and right depending on the court's major rulings, a recent Gallup study shows.

The survey, which was conducted from July 7-10, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, found that only 47 percent of respondents approve of the Supreme Court, while a slightly smaller group, 46 percent, disapprove.

The close split in opinion is fairly consistent with recent historical data on the court’s approval rating, which shows that faith in the judicial branch of the U.S. government has steadily declined since around 2009.

“Since Gallup began asking the question in 2000, Americans have typically been more likely to approve than to disapprove of the job the Supreme Court is doing,” Gallup reported. “However, the margin between the two has been narrowing since its recent high point in 2009, and Americans were divided over the court in 2012 and again in 2013.

Gallup found in September 2013 that roughly 46 percent of respondents approved of the Supreme Court, while 45 percent disapproved.


Luckily for the Supreme Court, it's not the only branch of the U.S. government that has seen its approval tank over the past few years. Americans also have less confidence in the legislative and the executive branch, with only 7 percent reporting high levels of confidence of Congress and 29 percent with confidence in the White House. The Supreme Court had the confidence of 30 percent of Americans in that report.

“Several recent court decisions allowed prayers in city council meetings; determined that the buffer zones around abortion and contraception medical centers in Massachusetts were too large and hampered free speech; said a public union could not force home-care workers to join the union and pay dues; and, perhaps the most well known, permitted family-owned businesses (in a suit brought by Hobby Lobby) to opt out of providing certain types of contraceptive coverage for employees if doing so was in conflict with the owners' religious beliefs,” the Gallup report added (of course, it's important to note in the Hobby Lobby case that the issue was specifically about abortifacients).

The Gallup survey also found that the Supreme Court’s approval rating saw a 21 percentage point increase recently among Republicans, a likely result of the court’s Hobby Lobby decision. However, the same decision may have also lead to a 14 percentage point decline in approval among self-identified Democratic respondents.

Democratic lawmakers have responded to the Hobby Lobby ruling by flooding the airwaves with false and ignorant statements, which have been accompanied by vows to “do something” about the 5-4 decision.


But the bottom line is still pretty clear: Americans are split in their view of Supreme Court, an institution that has seen its approval rating rise and fall since well before the 2009 inauguration of President Obama.

“Prominent Supreme Court decisions have led to changes in approval by party in the past. For example, in early 2001, just weeks after the Bush v. Gore decision effectively made George W. Bush the winner of the 2000 presidential election, Republican approval of the high court reached 80 percent,” Gallup reported. “In 2012, after a landmark decision about the Affordable Care Act, support among Democrats increased to 68 percent, close to a record high among that group.”

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