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The public’s image of the Supreme Court has eroded over the past few years, with just over half of those in a new poll saying they have a favorable view of the high court. With major changes expected as aging justices leave the bench, 57 percent of people had a favorable view of the Court in the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Only Justice Clarence Thomas, who is 56, is under the age of 65. Nominations of new justices are likely in the coming months and years. For more than a decade, at least seven in 10 people had a favorable view of the high court. In January 2001, just after the Court ruled that President Bush was the winner of the 2000 election, 68 percent had a favorable view. Democrats grew more negative about the Court after the 2000 decision on the election, and 51 percent of Democrats now have a positive view. But conservative Republicans have been growing more negative in their views of the Court, the poll found. Favorable opinions of the Court have dropped by 20 points among conservative Republicans and white evangelical Christians since January 2001. “The Court is taking criticism from both sides of the political spectrum,” said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. “Liberals lost regard for the Court in 2001 following the 2000 election ruling, and the Court has lost favor with conservative Republicans, possibly because of their discontent about some big social issues they are focused on.” Conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are most likely to say the selection of the next Supreme Court justice is very important to them personally. The overall number of people who feel that way is up to 47 percent, compared with 38 percent in March. The public is evenly split on whether they want President Bush to select a nominee who will move the Court in a more conservative or more liberal direction. One issue that is certain to be central in coming battles over the Court’s makeup is the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal. Almost two-thirds oppose “completely overturning” that decision. Opponents of the decision to make abortion legal appear to be more passionate about the selection of the next justice than those who support Roe v. Wade. Six in 10 opponents of the decision to make abortion legal said the selection of the next justice is very important to them personally, while just four in 10 supporters of that decision felt that way. The poll of 1,464 adults was taken June 8-12 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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