The Supreme Court’s approval ratings have historically been much more resilient than the two other branches of government’s polls. In the lead up to and immediate wake of the Affordable Care Act arguments in the Supreme Court, however, numerous polls showed the public’s approval of the justices in decline. A unifiying theme behind many of these polls is that the public increasingly views the Supreme Court as a partisan entity imposing its own policy preferences on the country, and not as fair and neutral judges.
A new New York Times poll continues this trend:
Just 44 percent of Americans approve of the job the Supreme Court is doing and three-quarters say the justices’ decisions are sometimes influenced by their personal or political views, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times and CBS News.
Those findings are a fresh indication that the court’s standing with the public has slipped significantly in the past quarter-century, according to surveys conducted by several polling organizations. Approval was as high as 66 percent in the late 1980s, and by 2000 approached 50 percent.
The decline in the court’s standing may stem in part from Americans’ growing distrust in recent years of major institutions in general and the government in particular. But it also could reflect a sense that the court is more political, after the ideologically divided 5-to-4 decisions in Bush v. Gore, which determined the 2000 presidential election, and Citizens United, the 2010 decision allowing unlimited campaign spending by corporations and unions.
Citizens United may be the clearest example of how the Court’s conservative majority is out of step with the American people — more Americans believe in “spells or witchcraft” than agree with the conservatives’ core claim that permitting unlimited elections spending by wealthy interest groups will not lead to corruption.
Nor is this the only example of the conservatives justices pushing an agenda through the courts that could never survive contact with elected lawmakers. Under Chief Justice Roberts, the conservative justices expanded corporation’s power to force workers and consumers into a privatized, corporate run arbitration system. They allowed corporations to immunize themselves from consumer class actions, which are often the only way to ensure that a rogue corporation complies with the law. And they targeted women’s right to equal pay for equal work and older workers’ right to be free from age discrimination.