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Public approval of Supreme Court reaches new low

Pew Research Center study finds Democrat and Republican opinions both plummet, ObamaCare debate may have helped to spur the drop

Public approval of major social phenomena, the economy, politicians and appointed officials is always apt to wax and wane with time. For the U.S. Supreme Court, though, public opinion is currently waning like a crescent moon.

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press yesterday released a survey indicating that public opinion of the high court is currently at a quarter-century low. And unlike previous evaluations of the court over the past decade, this time there is very little partisan divide as Republicans, Democrats and independents all responded with relatively unfavorable ratings.

The survey, which Pew conducted from April 4 to 15 and comprised 1,514 adults nationwide, found that just 52 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of the Supreme Court, which was down from 58 percent in 2010 and the previous low since 1985 of 57 percent in 2005 and 2007. Compounding this decrease is that 29 percent of respondents said they had an unfavorable view of the court, which was just 1 percent lower than the previous high in 2005.

When it came to party lines, 56 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of both Democrats and independents gave the court favorable ratings. Although these numbers may seem OK, they are down sharply from 2009, when shortly after President Obama took office, 70 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of independents had favorable opinions of the court.

Pew says that Republican ratings plummeted between 2009 and 2010 with the Obama administration’s appointments of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the court. And though Democratic opinions of the court were still relatively high through 2010, they’ve fallen since.

Graph courtesy of Pew Research Center

The research also indicates that Republicans were far happier with the court during the years George W. Bush was in the White House. In 2007, 73 percent of Republicans had a favorable view of the court, compared with just 49 percent of Democrats. Going back to 2001, 80 percent of Republicans had a favorable opinion of the court, compared with 62 percent of Democrats.

One of the factors possibly contributing to the drop in approval ratings is the recent brouhaha over the much-maligned Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which was the subject of three days of hearings in front of the Supreme Court in late March to determine its constitutionality.

The March 23, 2010, law, which President Obama intended to radically overhaul health care for millions of Americans, has been reviled by Republicans and the masses alike, who claim its scope is too intrusive and is an albatross for states, businesses and the individuals the President intended to help.

According to Pew, the public remains deeply divided over the bill, with 41 percent of people expressing approval compared with 49 percent who disapprove. Of the health care law’s supporters, 52 percent view the high court favorably, and 34 percent view it unfavorably. And of the PPACA’s critics, 55 percent have a favorable view of the court, and 28 percent have an unfavorable view.

For more about the survey, visit the Pew Research Center’s website.

For more InsideCounsel coverage of the PPACA, read:

Supreme Court divided on second day of health care hearings

Supreme Court to finally hear ObamaCare arguments

Court upholds federal health care law

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