President Joe Biden’s and former President Donald Trump’s approval ratings have changed little during their times in office, and the public’s view of Congress seems consistently negative. But Americans’ opinion of the Supreme Court (at least among partisans) can sometimes shift quickly – especially in the wake of new Court opinions.
One week ago, the Economist/YouGov poll found Americans of all political persuasions equally happy with the Court and its performance. But this final week of decisions changed things in the Economist/YouGov poll. American opinion of the Court has become a partisan one again with Republicans (52% approve, 29% disapprove) and Democrats (37% approve, 43% disapprove) viewing the Court differently, and Independents evenly divided (38% approve, 38% disapprove).
Two weeks ago, Democrats were as positive (48%) about the Court than Republicans (48%) – an unusual position for a branch of the federal government with twice as many Justices appointed by Republican Presidents than Democratic ones.
Americans who identify as liberals changed the most in the last week. They now disapprove of the Court by 19 points (51% to 32%), while a week ago they were closely divided: slightly more approved (43%) than disapproved (39%).
What Americans think of recent Supreme Court decisions
Democrats were happy with the Court’s 7-2 ruling on June 17, which once again affirmed the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (on which the country remains politically divided), a decision reported before the poll two weeks ago.
The Court also recently issued several unanimous rulings. In fact, 67% of the Court’s rulings this year were unanimous or near-unanimous 8-1 judgments, according to an analysis by ABC News. One such decision supported the right of college athletes to receive education-related compensation (NCAA v. Alston). Three-quarters of Democrats (75%) support the NCAA decision, as do most Independents (55%). Republicans tend to support the decision (45% approve, 29% disapprove).
Another of those unanimous rulings, however, was not that popular with Democrats. Fulton v. City of Philadelphia affirmed the First Amendment rights of an organization affiliated with the Catholic Church to reject applications from same-sex couples to be foster parents. One in five Democrats (20%) approve, while three in five (63%) disapprove of the unanimous decision. About seven in 10 Republicans (70%) approve, while 15% disapprove.
The most recent change in partisan opinion about the Court may be due to one of the Court’s final (and partisan) decisions of this term, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee. This case was decided by the six to three split and let stand a 1982 Arizona law that required the rejection of election ballots cast in the wrong precinct and absentee ballots not collected by a voter’s family member.
The decision comes at a time when Democrats in Congress (and President Biden) would like to pass new voting rights legislation and many Republicans (including the former president) do not accept the results of the 2020 election. On this decision, Democrats and Republicans take opposite positions: 22% of Democrats approve, compared to half of Republicans (50%).
Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between July 3 - 6, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 2.8% for the overall sample.