The recent Supreme Court decision on Hobby Lobby has had an impact on the approval rating for the nation’s top judicial panel, but it’s not exactly what detractors of the decision predicted. Paralleling the Economist/YouGov poll last week, Gallup’s most recent poll shows that overall approval and disapproval has stayed nearly constant over the past year or more. The profound change has taken place in the composition of both segments:
Americans remain divided in their assessments of the U.S. Supreme Court, with 47% approving of the job it is doing, and 46% disapproving. These ratings are consistent with approval lastSeptember, when 46% approved and 45% disapproved, and rank among the lowest approval ratings for the court in Gallup’s 14-year trend.
That’s true, but most of that took place between 2009 and 2012. The overall ratings since the first ObamaCare decision have been 49/40, 46/45, and 47/46. This result is nothing more than statistical noise on the overall trend of the last two-plus years.
However, what underlies it is decidedly not statistical noise. Have a look at the chart for approval by party ID, especially since that ObamaCare decision in 2012:
The most interesting trendline here might be that of the independents. Approval has trended slightly downward over time, but today’s 44% is still within the MOE of 2006’s 48% [see update below], and not quite as low as the mid-2008 approval rating, which is unlabeled or the post-ObamaCare 42% level. Their expectations may be set a little more rationally, and so avoid the spikes and plummets seen in the other demos in party-ID approval.
Otherwise, this looks … pretty familiar. When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Bush administration, the GOP loved SCOTUS — 80% at one point and 75% at another — while Democratic approval bottomed out at 40% at least twice. After the court upheld ObamaCare, suddenly the Supremes were the greatest thing among Democrats since Diana Ross went solo, while among Republicans they became as popular as Yoko Ono in 1970. It’s worth noting, too, that Obama lost a lot in this last session of the Supreme Court, and the dramatic changes seen here may not all be about Hobby Lobby, either.
Unfortunately, this still doesn’t tell us much about the impact on the next election. Gallup doesn’t give us any more information about demographics on gender, age, or region, all of which might paint a clearer picture. One indirect indicator that the Economist/YouGov poll had it right on Hobby Lobby traction is that Republican governors consider it a non-issue for the midterms:
Democrats see the Supreme Court decision of limiting birth control coverage in some employee health plans as galvanizing voters for November, but Republican governors say the Hobby Lobby case is barely a blip, let alone a reprise of the “war on women.”
Republicans interviewed at the National Governors Association summer meeting here this weekend described the high court ruling exempting some religious owners of for-profit businesses from the Obamacare contraceptive coverage requirement as a welcome brake on President Barack Obama and his intrusive health law. And they didn’t see it causing problems. …
The governors here say they just haven’t witnessed any of the uproar that accompanied the ruling in Washington.
“It really hasn’t been an issue for us just because it’s a federal decision,” said Wisconsin’s Walker. “Honestly, we haven’t heard much of anything at the state level out on the street from people we bumped into and talked to. I’m not on the court and I’m not in the federal government so I don’t really get involved with it.”
It doesn’t help Democrats that their rhetoric has so far “been untethered from those basic facts” of the Hobby Lobby decision, as Glenn Kessler wrote in his fact check on multiple statements from Democrats. Oddly, even though Kessler repeatedly found that these claims were blatantly false — for instance, Rep. Gwen Moore’s (D-WI) insistence that the court ruled that bosses could “tell their employees that they cannot use birth control” — Kessler didn’t assign anyone any of his Pinocchios. “The Fact Checker generally does not award Pinocchios for “misspeaking” or for statements of opinion,” Kessler wrote, but most of these were made as statements of fact, not opinion.
The Hobby Lobby decision isn’t stoking widespread outrage, even while Democrats attempt widespread demagoguery. If Senate Democrats try repealing part of the RFRA as a way to turn the midterms in their favor, they will almost certainly see the project backfire as Republicans demand to know why they’re attacking religious freedom. Have fun storming that castle, Democrats, especially in this election cycle.
Update, 7/15 noon: I misread the label on the 2006 independent approval rating. It’s 60%, as Jim Passmore says in his tweet correcting me:
— Jim Passmore (@ConPolNews) July 15, 2014
So the trendline is down more significantly among independents, but again, not so much during the Obama years.