Approval of Supreme Court Falls for Republicans and Democrats

The U.S. Supreme Court is not expected to announce its ruling on the Obama administration's health care law until next month, but already, Americans across the political spectrum are feeling less supportive of the decisionmakers on the nation's highest court. 

A survey by the Pew Center for the People and the Press taken after the oral arguments on the health care law found that approval from Democrats, Republicans and independents have all fallen since the beginning of the Obama administration.

Approval ratings for the court still exceed fifty percent, but they are lower than when Obama took office. The timing of this new disillusionment with the court, though, depended on political perspective.

Seventy percent of Republicans approved of the Court in 2009, but that began to slip as President Obama's two appointees, Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, joined the court. After the health care arguments, they felt warmer toward the court. 

Democrats' support of Court held steady in the mid-60s through mid-2010, even after the court's controversial Citizens United decision, but dropped to 52 percent last month. That came after the difficult round of oral arguments for the Obama administration, which 32 percent of Democrats said hurt their opinions of the court.

The approval slide of self-identified independents has been more gradual, dropping from 64 percent in spring of 2009 to 58 percent in summer 2010 to now 52 percent in 52 percent. That exactly tracks the overall opinion rankings. 

All of these swings by party are just slightly outside the survey's margin of error of five percent. 

The Supreme Court has enjoyed the support of a majority of Americans since Pew starting tracking opinions of Supreme Court during the Reagan administration, when there was a 76 rating overall. It has reached as high as 80 percent at the end of Clinton's first term, after his appointment of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg but before Justice Steven Breyer joined the court. They fell back to 57 percent in George W. Bush's second term before climbing back to the 64 percent in Obama's first year.