Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Negative Views of Supreme Court Reach 25-Year High

The Supreme Court opens its new term today at a time when the number of Americans see it unfavorably has increased. In a survey conducted after the Supreme Court’s ruling in June on the 2010 health care law, 37% of the public expressed an unfavorable view of the court compared to 52% who regarded the court favorably. That put the percentage of Americans expressing an unfavorable opinion of the court at its highest point in more than 25 years.

In April, shortly after the court heard oral arguments on the health care law, 52% viewed the court favorably, 29% unfavorably.

While there were virtually no partisan differences in views of the court three months ago, there is now a sizable gap. In the June 28-July 9 poll, more Republicans viewed the court unfavorably (51%) than favorably (38%). That was a sharp reversal from April, when a majority of Republicans (56%) had a favorable view of the court and just 25% held an unfavorable opinion. Over the same period, the percentage of Democrats expressing a favorable opinion of the Supreme Court increased 12 points, from 52% to 64%. (For more, see “Supreme Court Favorability Reaches New Low,” May 1, 2012.)

Views of the Supreme Court were more closely associated with opinions about the 2010 health care law in the July poll than they were three months earlier. In the most recent poll, two-thirds (65%) of those who approved of the law had a favorable opinion of the court, compared with just 37% of those who disapproved of the law. In April, opinions about the court were about the same among those who approved and disapproved of the law (52% favorable and 55% favorable, respectively).

As of July, 41% saw the court’s ideology as middle of the road, while 24% viewed it as conservative and 23% said it was liberal. That was little changed from July 2010 (39% middle of the road, 23% conservative, 23% liberal). Read More