Public opinion of the court is strongly polarized along partisan lines.
At the time of publication, an average of 38 percent of Americans approved of the job the Supreme Court is doing while 54 percent disapproved, for an average net approval rating of -16 percentage points.
Some of the major cases the court will take up in the next few months include challenges to the Chevron doctrine, a somewhat arcane precedent that would severely restrict the government’s regulatory powers if overturned, and a law restricting access to guns for individuals subject to domestic violence orders. There’s also a lawsuit challenging the funding structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a case dealing with retaliations against whistleblowers. Another case that hasn’t officially been taken up, but that the court is almost certain to hear, is an appeal of a district court ruling restricting access to the common abortion drug mifepristone. The high court put that ruling on hold temporarily while it considers whether to hear the case.
“I think these are fairly normal cases, and they’re not going to shake public opinion up too much,” particularly among those who already have unfavorable opinions of the court, said Michael Salamone, a political scientist at Washington State University who studies public opinion and the Supreme Court. Unless there are a lot of surprising liberal decisions in the next term that cut against the court’s conservative image, Salamone argued, the needle isn’t likely to move much. Any of these cases could result in surprising coalitions or more backroom deal-making between swing justices. But as long as the court’s rulings remain as ideologically extreme as it’s been the past few years, expect the public’s polarized — and negative — views of the institution to remain.
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