Is the Supreme Court too conservative or too liberal? Americans can’t decide.


This June 30, 2014, file photo shows customers walking into a Hobby Lobby store in Oklahoma City. The Supreme Court recently ruled that Hobby Lobby doesn't have to pay for its employees contraception, given its religious objections. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

The Supreme Court has had the same nine members since 2010. And Americans still can't decide whether those nine justices are too conservative or too liberal.

A new Gallup poll shows views of the court remain relatively steady -- at least overall -- with 47 percent of Americans approving of the justices and 46 percent disapproving. Those numbers have changed little over the last few years.

SuCoGallup2

But while the American public writ large remains about evenly split, partisan views of the court have swung wildly -- in large part based on whether the most recent major decisions were seen as conservative or liberal.

Just two years ago, after the court upheld the individual mandate portion of Obamacare, Democratic support for the court spiked to 68 percent -- near a decade -high.  Today, after the Supreme Court ruled that religious employers should be exempt from providing birth control to their employees and continuing rolling back campaign finance rules in McCutcheon v. FEC, the 44 percent of Democrats who endorse the court's work is near a new low.

SuCoGallup

Similarly, GOP support for the court plunged to 29 percent after the Affordable Care Act decision in 2012 -- a new low for the 21st Century. Today, it has spiked to 51 percent -- higher than Democrats'.

Even before the current court took over, though, this "what have you done for me lately" attitude was apparent. Republican support for the court peaked at 80 percent after the court signed off on George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign victory. It stayed higher than Democrats for most of the next decade, until more liberal justices were introduced on the current court.

(The reasons behind the Democratic spike in 2009 are less clear, but appear to be a result of Democrats taking the White House and the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the court.)

So as with all things political, views of the court are very much shaped by whether you agree with the decisions they are making. The difference between today and the past is that Americans can't seem to decide whether they are generally on the same side as the court.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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