Supreme Court Approval Hits Decade High Mark

This 2020 chart show annual measurements of how Republicans, Democrats and registered Independents approve of the work the U.S. Supreme Court has done, going back 20 years. (Image via Courthouse News)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Public approval of the U.S. Supreme Court is at its highest level since President Barack Obama installed Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the bench in 2009, a Wednesday poll by Gallup shows. 

“About six in 10 Republicans (60%), independents (57%) and Democrats (56%) approve of its overall job performance, the closest partisan ratings for the court Gallup has recorded throughout its trend since 2000,” the report states. 

With 58% of Americans saying the high court handles its job responsibly, approval is at its highest point since the 61% rating in 2009, the same year Congress had its most favorable assessment of Congress in four years.

For years after, approval of the court registered below 50% before climbing back up in 2018. Gallup measured the Supreme Court’s lowest approval rating at 42%, a bottom it hit in 2005 and 2017.

In 2020, Democrats and Republicans were surveyed between July 1 and July 23 as the Supreme Court wrapped up the term with decisions on the year’s biggest cases.

Gallup found that liberals lauded the court’s decision to rebuke President Donald Trump’s scrapping of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, while surveyed Republicans cheered a ruling that exempts employers from the federal health care law’s provision mandating free contraceptives for workers on the basis of moral objection.

“The ideological mix of this year’s decisions appears to have made the court less popular among Republicans, as their approval of the court is down 13 percentage points from last year at this time,” the report states. “However, the court is now more popular among Democrats, whose ratings of the judicial branch have increased by 18 points. Independents’ ratings of the Court have hugged fairly closely to the national average over time, with the current rating among this group being the highest since 2009.” 

Gabe Roth, executive director of Supreme Court transparency group Fix the Court, said Wednesday that Americans might be observing the justices as having picked up slack from the government’s other branches in 2020.

“Personally, I’d give the court low marks this term given how many of its most critical rulings, on issues like voting and the death penalty, came out via unsigned orders in the dead of night,” Roth said in an email. “If Gallup polled for transparency, SCOTUS would not receive such a positive rating.”

Gallup reported on the considerable drop in Americans’ approval of other lawmaking bodies just last week in a separate poll.

Since May, the public approval of Congress and that body’s job performance has nosedived in double digits. Democrats have lost the most faith in representatives, dropping from 39% to 20% in their overall approval of the body. Republican support also fell considerably, from 25% to 14% — though approval of the Democratic-controlled body by Republicans has only climbed above 20% three times since January of last year.

Gallup found that American dissatisfaction has also seeped into an overall view of the country. A Tuesday poll shows Americans were the happiest they have been in 15 years before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Satisfaction with the overall state of American affairs has plummeted to 13% from 45% since February, before government lockdown orders began rolling across the globe.

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