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Supreme Court Approval Rating at a 25-Year Low

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Regardless of whether the country prefers "activist" judges or "strict constructionists," only half of Americans have a favorable opinion of the Supreme Court, according to a new Pew Research Center poll.

That number has steadily declined over the last three years. In April 2009, 64 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of the Court; by July 2010, that number had dropped to 58 percent.

What’s more interesting about those numbers is that Republicans and Democrats almost-equally dislike the Supreme Court. (Who says they can’t agree on anything?) The study shows that 56 percent of Republicans view the Court favorably, while 52 percent of Democrats expressed favorable opinions.

The Pew Research Center notes that those numbers are unusual because the president’s party has viewed the Supreme Court more favorably than the opposition party has in past polls.

So why is there a lack of love for the Nine? One reason could be the Affordable Care Act hearings. The survey was conducted between April 4-15, shortly after the healthcare hearings. We’re guessing that respondents, more than any other time in the last decade, actually had strong opinions about the Supreme Court during that time because they had strong opinions about the healthcare law.

When asked about the healthcare law, 41 percent of Pew respondents said they approved of the law, while 49 percent disapproved. Among the bill’s supporters, 52 percent have a favorable view of the Supreme Court, but 34 percent view it unfavorably.

Though most respondents claimed the hearings didn’t alter their views of the court, the numbers tell a different story: Democrats were far more likely than Republicans to say their opinions of the court had become less favorable.

Will the Supreme Court’s popularity — or lack thereof — make a difference during election season? Probably not, according to the Christian Science Monitor, which points out that candidate attacks on the Supreme Court are risky because the institution still has relatively high approval ratings.

A Gallup poll released this week found President Obama’s approval rating lagged a few points behind the Court’s at 49 percent. And Congress? They are hanging by their fingernails at a resounding 10 percent approval rating.

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