- 58% of Americans approve of the job the Court is doing
- Republicans, independents and Democrats give similar ratings
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After the conclusion of the U.S. Supreme Court's eventful 2019-2020 term, most Americans (58%) approve of the way the judicial body is handling its job -- the court's highest rating in over a decade.
Line graph. Americans approval of the Supreme Court since 2000. 58% of Americans now approve of the job the Supreme Court is doing up from 54% last year.
The last time the Court received this high of an approval rating was in 2009, possibly owing to Democrats' enthusiasm for recently confirmed Justice Sonia Sotomayor and their more favorable view of the federal government more generally under President Barack Obama and a Democratic-controlled Congress. The Supreme Court's ratings dropped 10 percentage points by the following year, before spending several years below the 50% mark, from 2011 to 2017. In recent years, the Court's ratings have hovered around the 50% mark.
The latest data, from a July 1-23 Gallup poll, were collected just weeks after the conclusion of a busy term in which the Court handed down several significant decisions, some favoring liberal positions and others favoring conservative ones.
For example, the Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act protects LGBT workers from discrimination, struck down Louisiana abortion restrictions and rejected President Donald Trump's attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
While these decisions were major victories for Democrats, the Court issued several decisions favored by Republicans as well: empowering prosecutors to seek Trump's financial records while also delaying the likelihood those would be released before the election, allowing religious schools more access to state funding, empowering Trump to fire the head of an oversight bureau, and allowing faith-based employers to opt out of covering birth control in employee healthcare benefits. The Court also ruled that employment discrimination laws do not apply to religious schools.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court presided through conference calls, giving the public rare access to its arguments.
Party Groups Rate SCOTUS Similarly -- a Rarity in the Trend
About six in 10 Republicans (60%), independents (57%) and Democrats (56%) approve of its overall job performance, the closest partisan ratings for the court Gallup has recorded throughout its trend since 2000.
The ideological mix of this year's decisions appears to have made the court less popular among Republicans, as their approval of the court is down 13 percentage points from last year at this time. However, the court is now more popular among Democrats, whose ratings of the judicial branch have increased by 18 points. Independents' ratings of the Court have hugged fairly closely to the national average over time, with the current rating among this group being the highest since 2009.
Ratings among each party group are higher than their respective averages over the past two decades.
Line graph. Americans approval of the Supreme Court by political party affiliation. 60% of Republicans, 57% of Independents and 56% of Democrats now approve of the job the Supreme Court is doing.
The Supreme Court's many impactful rulings this year are likely behind the double-digit changes among Republicans' and Democrats' ratings of the Court. But the result is a court that is now evaluated similarly by both major party groups; for the first time in Gallup's trend since 2000, all party groups' ratings fall within the margin of error of the national average.
If the goal of the Court was to reestablish itself as a nonpolitical institution, it seems to have succeeded in that to a large degree, with higher overall ratings and similar ratings among partisan groups.
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