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Public support of the Supreme Court hits 25-year low

May 01, 2012|By Morgan Little
  • This artist rendering shows attorney Paul Clement before the Supreme Court in Washington during arguments on the constitutionality of President Obama's healthcare overhaul. Justices, from left are, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen G. Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Elena Kagan.
This artist rendering shows attorney Paul Clement before the Supreme Court… (Dana Verkouteren / Associated…)

The increasing levels of disdain Americans hold toward government also extends to the Supreme Court, which according to a new Pew Research Center survey is at its lowest approval ratings in 25 years.

Though a majority of Americans still have a favorable opinion of the Supreme Court, at 52% it’s the lowest level of support the court has received since 2007 and 2005, when 57% of Americans favored it. 

The latest poll was conducted in the wake of the contentious debate over the constitutionality of President Obama’s healthcare revamp, which brings the assumption that the low marks are indicative of a significant drop in support from the left.

Although that assumption holds true, with Democratic support of the court dropping from 65% in 2010 to 52% in 2012 and Republican support increasing by 4 percentage points to 56%, the general trend still shows a steady decline in general support for the court.

Following the heated debate over the court’s ruling in the 2000 presidential election, in January 2001, 68% of Americans held a favorable opinion of the court, broken down as 80% of Republicans, 62% of Democrats and 69% of independents. In Pew’s 25 years of polling, overall favorability of the court peaked in July 1994 at 80%.

And 52% of supporters of Obama’s healthcare reforms have a favorable opinion of the court, compared with a 55% favorability rating among those opposing the bill. Given the polarizing nature of the legislation, one would think that divide would be equally reflected in the polling on the court.

Interestingly, though they may diametrically disagree with the court’s rulings, Republicans and Democrats appear to be nearing a consensus on their diminishing support of its actions. After the highly polarizingGeorge W. Bushadministration, during which the difference between Democratic and Republican favorability ratings peaked at 24%, the difference between the two camps is now just 4%. And despite the presidency being held by a Democrat with two Supreme Court appointments under his belt, Republican approval is greater than Democratic approval.

The poll was conducted by phone April 4-15 among 3,008 adult participants. Of those, 1,514 were asked about their thoughts on the court’s favorability, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. The subsequent questions based on party lines had sample sizes of 390, 486 and 586 for Republicans, Democrats and independents, respectively. Margins of error for the three groups were 5.8, 5.2 and 4.8 percentage points, respectively, at a 95% level of confidence.

morgan.little@latimes.com

Original source: Public support of the Supreme Court hits 25-year low

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