The Supreme Court has joined a dubious club: Along with the other two branches of government, a majority of Americans now disapprove of its performance.
Congress, as a body of 535 separate personalities where everyone can find someone to loathe, has long suffered from public disdain. Its 23% approval rating in the most recent Gallup poll is actually an improvement from the numbers in the high teens the Legislative Branch often scores. It’s been nearly two decades since a majority of Americans approved of the House and Senate.
Presidential approval used to be a national unifier, with even presidents who won tight elections occasionally hitting the high sixties. But as tribal partisanship has increased, the range of presidential approval ratings has narrowed, with those who backed the incumbent rarely expressing dissatisfaction, and those who opposed the incumbent rarely expressing approval.
- George H.W. Bush’s approval rating swung by 60 percentage points during his term.
- George H.W. Bush’s approval rating swung by 65 percentage points during his time in office.
- But Donald Trump’s approval rating, which never reached 50%, swung by just 15 percentage points during his term — and had swung by just 10 percentage points overall before January 6.
- Joe Biden’s approval rating has swung by just 19 percentage points.
But the Supreme Court, traditionally seen as above politics, has usually avoided both low ratings and partisan division. Not anymore.
The Court’s disapproval rating is now 58%. Two years ago, the same number approved of its performance. Its 40% approval rating is the lowest on record.
- While 74% of Republicans approve of the Court’s performance, just 13% of Democrats do. Seven years ago, 76% of Democrats approved of the Court, compared to 18% of Republicans.
- Two-thirds of Republicans say they trust the Judiciary Branch as a whole. Just one-quarter of Democrats do.