The Supreme Court is hip nowadays. Here’s a rather unexpected consequence of the court’s oral arguments on President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act: its popularity is brimming, and its favorability has swung from all-time lows to recent highs, according to a new Rasmussen poll.
In Rasmussen’s latest poll, 41 per cent of voters now view the Supreme Court’s performance as “good” or “excellent.” That’s the highest rating for the court in nearly two and a half years. And it marks an astounding 13-point swing from a poll taken in mid-March before the health care arguments.
“I think it’s a reasonable assumption,” Scott Rasmussen, founder and president of Rasmussen Reports, said in a phone interview. “This is a dramatic change. Opinion in the court had been drifting down. Now it has jumped sharply up.”
What’s unclear is the prevailing reason for the swing in the polls.
It could be a result of the judges’ performances in the oral arguments and the growing perception that the court might strike down Obama’s signature achievement. It could be backlash among the voting public to Obama’s challenge of the Supreme Court, as he basically dared the court last week to overturn the law and said it would be “unprecedented” for them to do so. Or it could be a healthy combination of both.
What hasn’t changed at all is America’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act. In every Rasmussen poll on the subject, voters have favoured its repeal — sometimes by overwhelming margins.
Rasmussen said the last big bounce in approval for the court came in Ricci v. DeStefano. That case was brought by 20 New Haven, Conn., firefighters. The court ruled that the firefighters, 19 of whom were white, had been discriminated against when the city invalidated their test scores for possible promotions because no black firefighters had scored high enough for a promotion.
There was also a similar uptick in 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller, when the Supreme Court held that an individual has a right to bear arms like handguns in situations such as in-home self-defence.
“Public opinion was on one side, and when the court backs it up, people like the court better,” Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen also thought the press’ hyped-up coverage of the Affordable Care Act’s oral arguments helped contribute to the shift in favorability.
“I think we’re seeing as much as anything a response to the coverage of it,” Rasmussen said. “… When you have a CNN legal expert [Jeffrey Toobin] come running out and saying, ‘I know two days ago I said they were sure to uphold this by a wide margin, and now I’m sure it will be defeated,’ people assume there was something significant to that.”
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