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Americans Are Starting to Love the Supreme Court Again

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on September 29, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Congress's approval ratings are at historical lows. The presidential elections have left little to be desired. When it comes to the federal government, Americans find little they can be happy with. Except the Supreme Court.

The judiciary is now the most popular branch of government, with the Supreme Court viewed favorably by 60 percent of Americans, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. The Court beat out President Obama, who has a 50 percent approval rating, and absolutely eclipsed Congress's sad 20 percent approval rating in the governmental popularity contest.

Court Popularity Rebounds

The Court's favorability ratings are particularly noteworthy given how unpopular the Court was just one year ago. In July 2015, 43 percent of Americans viewed the Court unfavorably, according to Pew, a result that was strongly linked to the Court's decisions in King v. Burwell, upholding Obamacare's individual mandate, and Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. That unfavorable ranking was the highest it had been in 30 years.

The Supreme Court has even recovered ground with conservatives and Republicans. While last year only 33 percent of Republicans viewed the Court favorable, this year 57 percent do, though that number still lags behind the 73 percent of Democrats who look upon the Court with approval.

Some Voters Even Care About the Next Justice

Despite the fact that the Supreme Court wasn't mentioned once in the first presidential debate, and despite the fact that the Supreme Court's existing vacancy hasn't become much of a campaign issue, many voters still say court appointments (Supreme and otherwise) matter, Pew finds. Sixty-five percent of all voters said court selections were important to their vote, according to Pew. But they also ranked court appointments low on a list of important issues.

The more liberal or conservative a voter was, however, the more likely they were to focus on judicial appointments. Seventy-seven percent of conservative Republicans and 69 percent of liberal Democrats said the issue was important to their vote.

The Supreme Court, of course, still has a vacancy on its bench following Justice Scalia's passing in February. Early polls showed that most Americans thought President Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, deserved a hearing in the Senate, but there has been little sign that Senate Republicans will budge from their position that the next president should be the one to nominate Scalia's replacement.

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