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Public doesn’t much like any branch of federal government

REUTERS/Larry Downing
According to a Pew poll, 38 percent of Americans disapprove of the job the Supreme Court is doing.

For the first time in nearly three decades that the Pew polling organization has been asking the question, fewer than 50 percent of Americans express approval of the job the U.S. Supreme Court is doing.

I’m neither shocked nor horrified. If they’d asked me, I might have given a thumbs down. And, not wanting to hype this, there are still slightly more approvers (48 percent) than disapprovers (38 percent) of the Supreme Court. It’s just that public confidence in the court has traditionally survived the ups and downs of presidential approval ratings and the recent extremely low approval ratings of Congress, which are now at all-time lows in the teens.

For the record, President Obama’s approval/disapproval have been hovering fairly close together, but in three out of four of the fresh-out-today polls aggregated by Real Clear Politics, his disapprovers outnumber his approvers, although his approval has been above 50 percent as recently as early this year.

I’m old enough to remember “Impeach Earl Warren” bumper stickers, but that idea never went anywhere. Some liberals may never forgive Bush v. Gore, and some conservatives will never stop trying to reverse Roe v. Wade. But for most of my life, the legitimacy of the Supreme Court has sailed a bit above normal politics, although, to be honest, there have always been big partisan swings based on the most recent rulings.

During the George W. Bush years, Republicans liked the Supremes better than Democrats in general did. The court’s ruling upholding Obamacare was a blow to that pattern and in one of Pew’s polls right after the Obamacare ruling, a huge partisan gap opened up between high (64 percent) approval of the court by Dems and low (38 percent) approval by Repubs. The most recent batch of rulings included some that liberals disliked (the gutting of the Voting Rights Act) and some that conservatives disliked (striking down key portions of the Defense of Marriage Act), and the latest poll finds the court in bipartisan trouble with Democrats approving the court’s work by just over 50 percent, Republicans at 48 and independents casting the deciding vote with just 47 percent approval.

The history of the court’s approval rating and the partisan breakdowns are detailed by Pew here.

In an email exchange with me Wednesday, U of M political scientist Larry Jacobs called the dip in confidence in leading institutions, in all branches of government and in the private sector,  “understandable.”

“I think you’ll find a similar pattern with church & banks,” Jacobs said. “Americans are more distrustful of elites and the establishment. While it isn’t approaching level of 1970s crisis, we are on the march.”

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 07/25/2013 - 02:16 pm.

    We need a new Supreme Court

    The Robert’s court is rapidly making an argument for stopping lifetime appointments to the court. The Citizen United ruling and gutting the Voting Right Act in my mind are both highly partisan decision that hurt the country. Citizen’s United makes it so the general public gets out voted because the elite and companies can now get two votes in a one vote system. The system is ripe for more corruption than it already has. Anytime it is made harder for voters to vote it is not what the constitution intended. Already Republicans states are moving to make voting harder since the voting rights act was gutted. The court has lost it’s moral/legal compass and converted to a partisan compass, which isn’t what the constitution called for either.

  2. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 07/25/2013 - 10:14 pm.

    In what world are the 48 percent who approve of the SC living in? One case forever discredited them – Bush v. Gore, per-curiam decision, no precedent.

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/26/2013 - 09:24 am.

    Would we be better off

    without a Supreme Court?
    The Constitution does not mandate it.

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