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The Trail: 2012 Presidential News from the Field / CAMPAIGN 2012

Republicans' Discontent With High Court Drives Down Its Poll Numbers

Obama leads Romney by a significant margin overall, on most issues.

The Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 25, 2012.(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

photo of Steven Shepard
July 12, 2012

Negative opinions of the Supreme Court jumped in the wake of its ruling on the constitutionality of the 2010 health care law, according to a new Pew Research Center poll released on Thursday that shows the percentage who have an unfavorable opinion of the Court is higher than at any point since Pew began tracking it in 1985.

Meanwhile, President Obama leads Mitt Romney in the poll, as voters now narrowly see Obama as the candidate who would do the best job of improving economic conditions, a significant change from last month.

Fifty-one percent of all adults have a favorable opinion of the Court, statistically unchanged from April, when a Pew survey showed the Court's favorability rating at 52 percent. But the percentage holding an unfavorable view jumped to 37 percent, an 8-point increase from April, and a new high for Pew surveys.

 

(PICTURES: Winners and Losers in Health Care Ruling)

Democrats have a slightly-improved view of the Court: 64 percent view it favorably, compared to 52 percent in April. But the Court's standing among Republicans has plummeted, accounting for the overall decline.

Now, 51 percent of Republicans have an unfavorable opinion of the Court, while just 38 percent have a favorable opinion. In April, 56 percent of Republicans viewed the Court favorably.

The percentage of independents who view the Supreme Court unfavorably ticked up, from 31 percent in April to 38 percent now. But the percentage who have a favorable opinion in the recent survey, 51 percent, is unchanged from April.

The poll was conducted June 28-July 9, beginning the night of the Court's decision to uphold most of the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act.

Public opinion about the health care law has only changed slightly since the Court's decision, the poll shows. Now, 47 percent approve of the law, while 43 percent disapprove. That is slightly better than in a Pew poll from earlier in June, when 43 percent approve and 48 percent disapproved.

Eighty percent of Democrats approve of the law, while 83 percent of Republicans disapprove. Independents are split: 43 percent approve, compared with 46 percent who disapprove.

The poll shows Obama leading Romney among registered voters, 50 percent to 43 percent, a single-digit, statistically significant advantage. Six percent of voters prefer another candidate or are undecided. Support for Romney has declined modestly since earlier in June, when Obama led, 50 percent to 46 percent.

Obama wins 88 percent of Democrats, while Romney captures 89 percent of Republicans. Among independents, the two candidates are neck-and-neck, with Obama at 46 percent and Romney at 45. Democrats have a 6-percentage-point party-identification advantage among the poll's registered voters, accounting for Obama's overall advantage.

Male voters are split: 47 percent prefer Obama, while 46 percent choose Romney. But Obama leads by 13 percentage points among women, 53 percent to 40 percent. That includes a wide lead among unmarried women, 64 percent to 30 percent.

Among white voters, Romney leads 54 percent to 40 percent. Obama actually holds a scant, 3-point edge among white voters who have a college degree, 50 percent to 47 percent. As in other surveys, Obama struggles among blue-collar whites: Romney romps among non-college white voters, 58 percent to 35 percent. Black (91 percent) and Hispanic (65 percent) voters heavily favor the president.

Obama's support is also firmer than Romney's. Overall, 32 percent of voters say they "strongly" support Obama, along with the 18 percent who support him "only moderately." Romney earns the strong support of just 15 percent of all voters, combined with 28 percent who say they are more tepid supporters.

Romney supporters generally are more engaged, however. Seventy percent of those voters choosing Romney on the ballot test say they have given "quite a lot of thought" to the November election, compared with just 62 percent of Obama supporters. Romney has had a slight advantage on this measure since the spring.

On the 12 issue areas Pew tested, Romney only has a significant advantage on one: reducing the federal budget deficit. Half of voters say he would do the best job of cutting the debt, compared to just 36 percent who pick Obama.

But Obama leads on eight of the 12 issues, including reflecting voters' views on abortion and gay rights (Obama +14 points), defending against terrorist attacks (Obama +12), energy (Obama +12), health care (Obama +8), foreign policy (Obama +8), taxes (Obama +8), and improving economic conditions (Obama +6).

Now, 48 percent of voters say that Obama would do the best job of improving economic conditions, versus 42 percent who choose Romney. Earlier in June, Romney held an 8-point advantage on this question, 49 percent to 41 percent.

Neither candidate has a significant advantage on the issues of jobs (Romney +4), immigration (Obama +4), or selecting Supreme Court justices (Obama +5).

Pew surveyed 2,973 adults, for a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points. That includes 2,373 registered voters; those results carry a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

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