The Supreme Court is more popular than it has been in more than a decade, with almost 6 in 10 Americans approving of the job the nine justices are doing in new Gallup polling.
It’s the highest mark since 2009, when 61% said they approved of the way the court was going about its business.
In the intervening decade, the approval numbers for the nation’s highest court slipped significantly – bottoming out following the 2016 election, when just 42% approved.
The comeback in SCOTUS numbers of late has been fueled by rising approval among Democrats and independents, even as the numbers among Republicans have dipped.
In 2019, 73% of Republicans, 54% of independents and just 38% of Democrats approved of the Court.
This year? Six in 10 GOPers approve, while 57% of independents and 56% of Democrats do the same.
(For you non-math majors out there, the change between 2019 and 2020 is -13 for Republicans, +3 for independents and +18 for Democrats.)
The fluctuations in partisan views of the court are likely linked to how the nine justices ruled on a series of high-profiles cases in the recently concluded term.
Rulings that affirmed gay and lesbian workers were protected under workplace discrimination laws and rejected President Donald Trump’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program were touted as major wins for liberals.
(For much more on these rulings, check out Joan Biskupic’s brilliant deep dive into the court’s most recent term – and the critical role Chief Justice John Roberts played.)
Trump, in the wake of those adverse rulings, took to Twitter to express his dismay.
“These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives,” he tweeted on June 18. “We need more Justices or we will lose our 2nd. Amendment & everything else. Vote Trump 2020!”
While the court’s recent rulings may have cost them support from Trump – and some chunk of self-identifying Republicans – they effectively have repositioned the nation’s highest court back in the middle space between the two parties, a longtime goal of Roberts.
“When you live in a polarized political environment, people tend to see everything in those terms,” Roberts said in 2019. “That’s not how we at the court function and the results in our cases do not suggest otherwise.”
All of which should serve as a reminder that the President’s agenda (any president’s agenda) isn’t the same as the court’s agenda. And it’s often not close.
The Point: The Supreme Court is at a decade-long high in approval precisely because it is generally respected – but not loved – by people of all political persuasions. Which is exactly how it should be regarded.