Supreme Court’s Favorable Rating Still at Historic Low

As the Supreme Court deliberates on two same-sex marriage cases, and with several other high-profile cases on its docket, the court’s favorability rating remains close to an all-time low.

A national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted March 13-17 among 1,501 adults, finds that 52 percent view the court favorably, while 31 percent view it unfavorably. Those ratings have changed only modestly since last July, shortly after the court’s ruling to uphold most of the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans’ views of the court, which tumbled 18 points following the court’s ruling on the health care law, have rebounded somewhat in the current survey. Nearly half of Republicans (47 percent) have a favorable opinion of the Supreme Court, up from 38 percent last July, but still lower than the 56 percent who viewed the court positively prior to its decision on the health care law.

By contrast, Democrats’ impressions of the court have slipped since last July, from 64 percent to 56 percent. Independents’ views of the court have changed little during this period. About half of independents (52 percent) continue to have a favorable impression of the court.

Little Agreement on Supreme Court’s Ideological Leanings

The public continues to have mixed perceptions of the Supreme Court’s ideology. A plurality (40 percent) now say the court is middle of the road, while 24 percent say it is liberal and about the same share (22 percent) says it is conservative.

But conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats have very different impressions of the ideology of the Roberts Court. About as many conservative Republicans say the Supreme Court is liberal (45 percent) as middle of the road (39 percent). Very few conservative Republicans, just 9 percent, say the court is conservative.

Nearly half of liberal Democrats (48 percent) say the Supreme Court is conservative; 31 percent say it is middle of the road and just 15 percent view the court’s ideology as liberal. Both overall public views of the court’s ideology as well as the partisan and ideological differences in those views are little changed since 2012.

The analysis in this report is based on telephone interviews conducted March 13-17, 2013, among a national sample of 1,501 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia (750 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone and 751 were interviewed on a cell phone, including 385 who had no landline telephone). The survey was conducted by Abt SRBI. A combination of landline and cell phone random digit dial samples were used; both samples were provided by Survey Sampling International. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish.

Respondents in the landline sample were selected by randomly asking for the youngest adult male or female who is now at home. Interviews in the cell sample were conducted with the person who answered the phone, if that person was an adult 18 years of age or older. For detailed information about the survey methodology, click here.

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