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Disapproval of Supreme Court Edges to New High

by Justin McCarthy

Story Highlights

  • At 50%, disapproval of court reaches new high
  • Republicans' approval up slightly from record low in July
  • Democrats' approval down from record high

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Half of Americans (50%) disapprove of the job the U.S. Supreme Court is doing, while slightly fewer (45%) approve. Although the high court's approval rating is similar to what it has been in recent years, the current disapproval rating is at a new high. Fewer Americans (5%) now have no opinion about the court.

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Although the court's image now tilts negative by five percentage points, that gap is still within the poll's margin of error. This means Americans remain statistically split on the court's image, as they have been in all but one poll since July 2012. Prior to that, majorities had approved of the court's performance in almost all polls from 2000 to 2010, with two exceptions: an approval rating of 48% in June 2008, and a record low of 42% in June 2005 after the court ruled against Susette Kelo in an eminent domain case.

These data are from Gallup's annual Governance poll, conducted Sept. 9-13.

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Party Gap Eases After Record Polarization in July

This July, Democrats' approval of the Supreme Court reached a record high of 76%, while Republicans' approval hit a record-low 18% after the court handed down major decisions legalizing same-sex marriage and upholding the Affordable Care Act. Two months later, this wide gulf continues to exist in Republicans' (26%) and Democrats' (67%) approval ratings of the court, but the division is not as extreme as it was in July.

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Bottom Line

Americans remain divided on the job the U.S. Supreme Court is doing, but with disapproval reaching a new high, its image is now the closest it has come in the past 15 years to tilting negative. This may partly reflect the weakening of public confidence in government in recent years. But the court has also been caught in the middle of divisive policy battles that have largely undermined Republicans' approval of the institution, while not helping it with political independents. And as the trend suggests, all of this could change based on the nature of the court's decisions. Already, the court's highest and lowest partisan approval scores in the past 15 years have come from Republicans.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 9-13, 2015, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,025 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Learn more about how Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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