The Supreme Court holds a unique place in American government. Sitting justices do not have set terms, and they can influence public policy long after the presidents who nominated them and the senators who confirmed them have departed. Partisans have often battled over these nominations because of the court’s ability to reshape or strike down laws favored by one side or another.
The politics surrounding court appointments has been apparent since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February. President Obama nominated federal appellate court justice Merrick B. Garland to replace him, but Republicans in the Senate said they would not hold hearings or a vote on any nomination until after the next president was elected.
As the court’s new term gets underway, here are five facts on how Americans view the Supreme Court:
- Americans’ opinions of the court hit a 30-year low last year after controversial decisions, but have rebounded after a quieter term.
- There is a significant partisan gap in views of the court.
- Partisans have starkly different views over how the justices should interpret the Constitution.
- Conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are particularly likely to see court appointments as very important to their vote.
- Most Americans disagree with the Republican-controlled Senate’s decision to not hold hearings on Obama’s court nominee.
Read the whole article and see the data charts at the Pew Research Center’s website.