A Gallup poll conducted from September 9-13, 2015, and released on October 2nd, finds that the U.S. Supreme Court has reached a new low in the court of public opinion. Gallup has tracked the court’s approval ratings since 2000, and the September 2015 survey marks the court’s worst approval numbers in those fifteen years of polling.
50 percent of American disapprove of the court’s job performance, compared to just 45 percent who approve of the court’s work. Despite the court’s 5 to 4 conservative majority, Republicans hold a much more negative view towards the court than Democrats do. High profile rulings on gay marriage and Obamacare, where the court deviated from its conservative reputation to deliver improbable victories for the Obama administration, ruined the court’s standing with Republicans.
Only 26 percent of Republicans have a favorable opinion of the Roberts’ court, compared to 67 percent of Democrats who view the current court favorably. 42 percent of Independents hold a favorable opinion of the Roberts’ court.
Public opinion has seen a fairly consistent partisan divide in how the Supreme Court is viewed, since Gallup first began tracking the court’s approval rating in 2000. However, which party approves and disapproves of the court has fluctuated based on how the court has ruled on major decisions.
Presidential appointments have also significantly influenced partisan perceptions of the court. Throughout the Bush presidency, Republicans gave the Supreme Court higher marks than Democrats. However, shortly after Barack Obama became president, GOP voters changed their tune, and decided they disliked the Supreme Court.
While the Supreme Court still ostensibly holds a 5-4 conservative majority, Republicans seem to be dismayed with the addition of thoughtful Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the court. They would much rather see the court packed with right-wing ideologues and right-wing ideologues only.
By contrast, Democrats seem content with the court having a conservative majority, as long as the court occasionally deviates from right-wing orthodoxy to give liberals and centrists a few victories over the course of its tenure. The ideological rigidity of dogmatic Republicans contrasted with the flexible pragmatism of Democrats, has created a strange dynamic. Democrats approve of the conservative court, despite its many faults, because it has made some good decisions in the past year.
Conservatives, on the other hand, despise the court, because it doesn’t give them their way on every single ruling. For Republicans, the conservative Roberts’ court simply isn’t dogmatic enough to protect their fragile right-wing sensibilities from affronts to their dignity, like allowing people to have health insurance and to marry who they love.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.