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Supreme Court Enjoys Majority Approval at Start of New Term

Supreme Court Enjoys Majority Approval at Start of New Term

Story Highlights

  • 54% of Americans approve of job Supreme Court is doing
  • 73% of Republicans, 38% of Democrats approve
  • 47% satisfied with court's ideology, 33% say it's too conservative

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares for the opening of a new term, Gallup finds a slight majority of Americans -- 54% -- approving of the job the court is doing. This rating is similar to each of the past three years, but marks an improvement over the prior five years, from 2012 to 2016, when about as many Americans disapproved as approved of the high court.

Line graph. Americans’ approval of the U.S. Supreme Court from 2000 to 2019.

The latest results are from Gallup's annual Governance poll, conducted Sept. 3-15. It is Gallup's first reading of how Americans view the court's job performance since Justice Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's second Supreme Court appointee, was seated on the court.

Republicans' Approval Has Surged, Democrats' Has Slumped in Trump Era

Views of the court differ sharply by party: 73% of Republicans approve and 38% of Democrats approve, with independents falling squarely between at 54%.

Republicans' approval of the court increased sharply spanning the transition from Barack Obama's presidency to Trump's, rising from 26% in 2016 to 65% in 2017.

The September 2017 rating was recorded after Trump saw his first Supreme Court nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, confirmed. Since then, GOP approval of the court has only inched higher, making today's rating the highest since 2006 when 74% approved. That reading was Gallup's first measure after Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both George W. Bush nominees, joined the court in late 2005/early 2006.

Democrats' approval of the court, on the other hand, has been below 40% the last two years, roughly tying the low level previously seen toward the end of Bush's presidency in 2008.

Line graph. Americans’ approval of the U.S. Supreme Court by partisan group.

Less Than Half Satisfied With Court's Ideological Stance

Although the majority of Americans approve of the job the Supreme Court is doing, slightly less than half, 47%, say the court is "about right" ideologically, a third say it is too conservative and 17% too liberal.

As with approval of the court's job performance, Americans' views of the court's ideology has shifted according to the party of the sitting president. Under Trump, as during George W. Bush's second term, more Americans have said the court is too conservative than too liberal, while the reverse was true under Obama.

Prior to 2006, perceptions of the court's ideological slant were more evenly divided.

Line graph. Americans’ perceptions of the political ideology of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Republicans and Independents Satisfied With Court's Ideology

Republicans have become increasingly satisfied with the court during Trump's time in office, with the percentage saying its ideology is "about right" rising from 49% in 2017 to 65% in 2019.

Line graph. U.S. Republican’s views of the Supreme Court’s political Ideology.

While more independents say the court is too conservative (29%) than too liberal (15%), the largest share, 50%, say it is about right.

Line graph. U.S. political independents’ views of the Supreme Court’s ideology.

Meanwhile, the solid majority of Democrats, 62%, say today's court is too conservative, up from 52% in 2017. A quarter now believes it's about right while 11% think it's too liberal.

Line graph. U.S. Democrats’ views of the Supreme Court’s ideology.

Bottom Line

The Supreme Court had a fairly non-controversial term in 2018, declining to take any major abortion cases and issuing decisions favoring both sides of the political aisle on other issues. For instance, it sided against the Trump administration in choosing not to allow the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census forms. But it also sided with American Legion in ruling that a 40-foot cross on government land that honors soldiers from World War I did not violate the Constitution's separation of church and state.

Perhaps because of such examples, the court's overall image remained relatively steady at a positive level over the past year. That could change going forward as cases involving Obamacare, immigration, the Second Amendment, gender identity and abortion are reportedly likely to wind up on its docket in the 2019-2020 session.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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