Rasmussen: SCOTUS ratings slip after ObamaCare ruling

posted at 3:31 pm on July 1, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Hey, maybe delegitimization is a problem for the Supreme Court after all — even if not in the way liberal critics predicted before Thursday’s ruling to uphold ObamaCare.  A new poll by Rasmussen shows a big jump in negative perceptions of the court after the decision:

Public opinion of the Supreme Court has grown more negative since the highly publicized ruling on the president’s health care law was released. A growing number now believe that the high court is too liberal and that justices pursue their own agenda rather than acting impartially.

week ago,  36% said the court was doing a good or an excellent job. That’s down to 33% today. However, the big change is a rise in negative perceptions. Today, 28% say the Supreme Court is doing a poor job. That’s up 11 points over the past week. …

Thirty-seven percent (37%) now believe the Supreme Court is too liberal, while 22% think it’s too conservative. A week ago, public opinion was much more evenly divided:  32% said it was too liberal and 25% said too conservative.

In the latest survey, 31% now believe the balance is about right.

Prior to the decision, liberal commentators and politicians warned that the court’s legitimacy could be fatally undermined if it overturned ObamaCare.  It looks as though the opposite turned out to be true, although it’s likely a relatively temporary phenomenon.  Republicans shifted from significantly positive (42% good or excellent, 14% poor) to strongly negative (20/43).  Democrats moved from 35/22 to 50/11.  (I guess they didn’t get the memo about Roberts’ Commerce Clause limitations, eh?) As always, the key is the perception of the court by independents, and that noticeably worsened, going from 31/14 to 31/30.

Will this matter?  Not directly, no, because Supreme Court justices don’t have to stand for election.  However, the erosion in support for the court gives Mitt Romney and Republican candidates for the Senate new ammunition to use in this election cycle.  The Court always matters in presidential elections, especially for conservatives, but the big issues of jobs and the economy had put them on the back burner.  Jobs and the economy will still be the most important issues in this election, but the decision on Thursday makes Supreme Court appointments and confirmations much more relevant than earlier, and that will play well for Romney among the Tea Party activist base, which had been diffident at best toward Romney until now.  The rising unhappiness among independents doesn’t bode well for Obama, either.

For the moment, though, the decision doesn’t appear to have impacted the presidential race.  Rasmussen’s latest presidential tracking poll shows a 45/45 dead heat, exactly as it was the previous day.   Still, Romney may have good news on the way:

Today’s results are the same as they were just before the Supreme Court ruled on the health care law. See tracking history.

However, intensity is up among conservatives. On Thursday morning, 43% of conservative voters were following the presidential race on a daily basis. That’s up to 51% today. It remains to be seen whether this is a lasting change, statistical noise, or a temporary response to the health care ruling.

Just 28% of moderates and 31% of liberals are following the race that closely. Those numbers are little changed since the Supreme Court ruling. Interest in a campaign is typically a good early indicator of voter turnout.

It’s still early in the general-election campaign, too.  Most people won’t start tuning in until the conventions, which start on August 27th with the Republican convention in Tampa.  However, people questioned Romney’s ability to generate conservative intensity in this race — and at least for now, he seems to be succeeding, perhaps with a big boost from the Supreme Court.

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