Recently, President Obama raised the ire of conservatives when he claimed the Supreme Court would be practicing judicial activism if they struck down the health care law, despite a long record of Republican presidents railing against so-called activist judges without a similar backlash. If a new survey is any indication, the President is not the only one worried about a politicized Court.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll released today found that most Americans expect the Supreme Court to decide the health care law’s constitutionality based on politics, not law. Fully half of Americans expect the Court will rule based on “partisan political views,” while 40 percent expect a ruling based on the legal merits of the law. As the survey notes, this view isn’t just held by supporters of the law:
The public’s perception of the court is closely tied to partisan and ideological leanings. Almost twice as many conservative Republicans think the court will decide on the basis of the law rather than politics, 58 to 33 percent. Liberal Democrats are more skeptical, saying by an equally wide margin that the court will put politics first.
Just over half of political independents think the court will base its ruling on partisan predispositions. This includes similar numbers of independents who support and oppose the health law.
The Supreme Court has made several decisions over the past few years which completely ignored decades of precedent. This probably explains why earlier surveys have found that fewer Americans view the Court positively than ever before. It is also worth nothing that this is not the first survey which showed Americans were skeptical of how the Court would rule on the health care law.
The Affordable Care Act is supported by nearly 200 years of precedent, which should make this an easy case. During oral arguments, however, the justices seemed more concerned with whether they agreed with the law then whether it is constitutional. One justice in particular parroted several Republican talking points during the arguments.