This artist's sketch shows Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., center,… (Dana Verkouteren / Associated…)
What a difference a single court decision can make. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s monumental decision on President Obama’s healthcare reform law, Republican opinions of the court and Chief Justice John G. Roberts have plummeted, while Democrats now view both more favorably, according to a new Gallup poll.
The court’s 5-4 decision held that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate was constitutional when defined as a tax. It was met with howls from conservatives who wanted the court to strike down all the provisions of the president’s healthcare law, and cheers from the left for leaving most of the measure intact.
The reaction to the decision was reflected in Gallup’s polling, as sentiments about the court are split sharply along party lines. Since Gallup last asked questions about the Supreme Court in September 2011, disapproval of it among Republicans jumped 32 points to 64% from 32%, while approval dropped 21 points to 29% from 50%. Among Democrats, disapproval dropped 16 points to 25% from 41% and approval increased 22 points to 68% from 46%.
Overall, the percentage of Americans who approve of the way the Supreme Court is conducting itself was 46%, which tied the second-lowest ranking over the last 11 years. Disapproval of the court sits at its second-highest level during the same time frame at 45%.
Roberts’ vote in favor of upholding most of the law was met with particular venom from many conservatives, some of whom accused him of kowtowing to political pressure.
And that hostility was matched in the polling. A plurality of Republicans -- 44% -- hold a negative opinion of Roberts, with just 27% holding a favorable opinion. A majority of Democrats, 54%, view Roberts favorably, compared with 19% viewing him unfavorably.
Republicans held a net 63-point positive view of Roberts the year he was confirmed to the court, after being nominated by George W. Bush, and a net 17-point negative rating following his ruling on healthcare. Democrats, meanwhile, shifted from 4-point net approval in 2005 to 35-point net approval this year. Respondents were not asked, however, what accounted for their shift in views, leaving open the possibility that other factors contributed.
Gallup’s poll was conducted July 9–12 among a sample of 1,014 adults. Its margin of error was 4 percentage points in either direction
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