WASHINGTON - At a time when other branches of the U.S. government remain relatively unpopular, public approval of the Supreme Court has risen to its highest level in more than a decade, according to a new Gallup survey.
The survey, released on Wednesday, found that 58% of Americans approve of the way the high court is handling its job, its highest rating since 2009.
The nine-member court's approval rating had hovered around 50% in recent years after rising as high as 61% in 2009, fueled in part by the historic appointment of the first Hispanic justice, Sonia Sotomayor.
The Supreme Court's high approval rating contrasts sharply with that of the rest of the U.S. government. Just 25% of Americans approve of the way Congress is handling its job, according to an earlier Gallup survey, while 38% say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the presidency.
The Supreme Court is split between five conservative justices appointed by Republican presidents and four liberals appointed by Democratic presidents, a right-leaning ideological divide that has persisted since the 1970s.
While its 5-4 rulings on politically charged issues receive the most attention, a large number of its decisions are reached unanimously.
The latest survey, conducted between July 1 and 23, comes on the heels of one of the most consequential Supreme Court terms in recent years during which the justices issued a series of landmark rulings.
They dismissed the Trump administration's attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program, struck down a Louisiana anti-abortion law, and expanded anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ workers.
At the same time, the court ruled that states cannot exclude religious schools from funding for private education, opined that Catholic school teachers cannot sue their employers for discrimination and upheld exemptions from Obamacare's birth control mandate.
On July 9, the court's final day of the term, the justices issued a pair of mixed rulings regarding subpoenas for President Donald Trump's financial records. While ruling that Trump is not immune from a New York grand jury subpoena, the justices put a stop to congressional efforts to obtain the president and his family's business records.
Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, said that in evaluating the high court, Americans often "conjure up one or two recent cases, and based on that, determine their support or opposition."
He added that Americans often ignore "countless consequential actions that may bypass the headlines."