High court's approval rating hits new low ahead of health ruling

Public opinion of the Supreme Court is at an all-time low ahead of a politically charged ruling on the healthcare reform law.

The court’s favorability rating stands at 52 percent, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press. Twenty-nine percent of those polled said they have an unfavorable view of the high court.

The finding comes as Republicans and Democrats map out their strategies for handling the court’s healthcare ruling, which is expected in June. Both parties say the court’s public image could be at stake.

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Many Democrats say a decision striking down President Obama’s healthcare law would appear political and hurt the court’s credibility. They cite Bush v. Gore, the case that decided the 2000 presidential election and sparked skepticism of the court, in part because the justices took the unusual step of declaring that their decision did not set any precedents.

Republicans, meanwhile, are ready to pounce on President Obama if he attacks the Supreme Court, an approach he appeared to be testing out shortly after oral arguments in the healthcare case. They say Obama would be undermining the public’s trust in the court for political gain.

Republicans also say it would be a case of judicial activism for the justices to uphold Obama’s health law, raising the question of how strongly they would criticize such a decision.

The latest Pew poll didn’t find a significant partisan divide over the high court. Fifty-six percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans said they have a favorable view of it.

The divide between supporters and opponents of the healthcare law was also small — 55 percent of the law’s opponents have a favorable view of the court, compared with 52 percent of the law’s supporters.

The survey was conducted in early April, after the court heard three days of oral arguments over the healthcare law. Those arguments indicated that the justices might well throw out the law’s individual mandate, and perhaps the entire statute.

The justices are also set to rule by June on Arizona's controversial immigration low.