(Photo: REUTERS/Larry Downing)
The U.S. Supreme Court's job approval has seen a dramatic increase over the past month, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll. The results seem counter-intuitive given that the Court has been under greater press scrutiny during the oral arguments over the constitutionality of the new healthcare law, and with President Obama raising concerns about a conservative active court.
Forty-one percent rated the Supreme Court's performance as good or excellent in the April 6-7 poll of 1,000 likely voters (margin of error is +/- three percent). That represented a 13 percentage point jump from the same poll taken in mid-March showing only 28 percent approved of the Court's performance. It is also the highest approval rating for the Court in two and a half years.
The Supreme Court's March 26-28 oral arguments regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, a health care law passed in 2010 also known as "Obamacare," received a significant amount of media attention. According to a report by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, it was one of the top two reported news stories that week and comprised 19 percent of all news coverage.
Many of the justice's questions during the oral argument suggested that they were seriously considering striking down the law's individual mandate to purchase insurance, or even the entire law.
On April 2, President Obama made some controversial remarks about the court in light of the oral arguments.
If the Court overturned the law, he said, it would be an "unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress."
He also said the Court would be engaged in "judicial activism" if "an unelected group of people" overturned "a duly constituted and passed law."
Several experts pointed out after those remarks that the law was passed by only a slim majority and declaring laws unconstitutional would not be unprecedented. The Court has done so often since Marbury v. Madison (1803) established the precedent of judicial review.
As a result of the criticism, Obama clarified his remarks on April 3 to say that the Court has not overturned a law based upon the Commerce Clause since before the New Deal.
"It is impossible to know if the improved perceptions of the court came from the hearings themselves, President Obama's comments cautioning the court about overturning a law passed by Congress, or from other factors. Approval of the court had fallen in three consecutive quarterly surveys prior to the health care hearings," Rasmussen Reports wrote.