But unlike in 2017, the polling organization said, the drop was not attributable to a wide gap in partisan views of the court. In the recent survey, bare majorities of both major political parties approve of the high court, while those who called themselves independents were slightly less approving.
As is often the case, the court in its just-completed term handed down a mixed set of rulings in its most publicized cases.
For instance, it upheld the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement, against a third challenge, this one initiated by Republican state attorneys general and supported by the Trump administration.
But the court drew the ire of Democrats for upholding Arizona election laws that a lower court had found discriminatory, a decision that probably will make it harder to bring challenges under the Voting Rights Act.
“The mix of rulings may have helped keep Republicans from viewing the court as a conservative ally, or Democrats from perceiving it as too ideologically extreme,” Gallup said in its analysis of the results. “If that is the case, it is notable, given that the court now has six justices nominated by Republican presidents compared with three nominated by Democratic presidents.”
Three of the nine were nominated by President Donald Trump, including new Justice Amy Coney Barrett. She replaced liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September. Over Democratic objections, the Senate’s then-Republican majority pushed through Barrett’s nomination just before the election.
Overall, 49 percent of those surveyed approved of the court’s performance, 44 percent disapproved and 7 percent gave no opinion. In last summer’s poll, 58 percent approved of the court’s performance, while 38 percent disapproved. Republicans, Democrats and independents all gave the court lower marks for this year.
If the partisan evaluations of the court were somewhat similar, the split among those who call themselves conservative or liberal were pronounced.
Only a third of self-identified liberals were happy with the court’s performance, compared to 61 percent who gave it a failing grade. Moderates approved of the court’s performance 57 percent to 37 percent, while 52 percent of conservatives gave the court good marks.
There are more decisions likely to be divisive on the way, as the court next term could confront gun control, abortion and race.
Already the court has said it will review a New York law regarding restrictions on those who can carry a weapon outside the home. It will consider a Mississippi law that prohibits most abortions after 15 weeks, far earlier than now allowed; the state has asked the justices to use the case to overturn Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to abortion.
And the court will decide in the fall whether to accept a challenge to Harvard’s admission policy, which allows a limited use of race in deciding which students to accept.
Gallup said its poll was conducted July 6-21 and has a margin of error rate of plus or minus four points.