The Health Care Debate's Impact On The Court

April 13, 2012, 1:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 4/7/2012) The Supreme Court has always been one of the most respected institutions in American government and politics. Few Americans say it’s their least respected institution; many respect it the most. But the latest Economist/YouGov poll suggests that the recent health care debate may have had an impact.

The last time the Economist/YouGov Poll asked about trust in institutions was nearly two years ago. Then, a clear plurality chose the Court as their most trusted institution over any other branch. Now, the President is statistically tied with the Court when Americans are asked whether they trust Congress, the Court, the President, or political parties the most — even though in last week’s poll, the public tended to side with the Court’s conservative wing in the health care argument.

For Republicans, it’s still the Court that they trust the most. 41% of Republicans choose the Court, with hardly any choosing any of the other three options. Democrats trust the President most. He was cited by 46% of Democrats. That pattern has existed in previous polls as well.

Partisans are highly divided in their views on how much politics enters the Court’s decision-making. 47% of Republicans say that Supreme Court justices make their decisions on the basis of legal analysis, not political ideology. But only 30% of Democrats and 31% of independents agree. By contrast, nearly 45% of Independents
believe that the Supreme Court justices are primarily influenced by politics. Unlike Republicans and Independents, a fairly high (34%) percentage of
Democrats say they just aren’t sure which factor most influences the decisions that the Court makes.

As for which institution they trust the least, the Court still fares well with the public; only 4% name it.

One-quarter of Republicans would like the Court to use its power to strike down laws even more than it does. For Democrats, whose party has been on the losing end of several recent Court decisions, the feeling is different: 19% thinks the Court is overstepping its role. Still, a plurality of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents believe the Court is exercising judicial review about the right amount of time.