July 29, 2007 — -- Three in 10 Americans say the Supreme Court is "too conservative," up sharply from two years ago and now substantially more than call it "too liberal." Just under half say the court is about balanced ideologically in its decisions.
Thirty-one-percent call the court too conservative, compared with 19 percent in July 2005 -- a period in which Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito have joined the court, replacing William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O'Connor.
Considerably fewer, 18 percent, call the court too liberal. Forty-seven percent say it's balanced, down from 55 percent in 2005.
Naturally there are sharp ideological differences in these views. Fifty-one percent of liberals see the court as "too conservative," compared with 36 percent of moderates and 10 percent of conservatives. Indeed a third of conservatives call it too liberal.
Compared with two years ago, views of the court as too conservative are up 16 points among moderates, 10 points among liberals and six points (albeit to a still very small number) among conservatives themselves.
Such attitudes are not unprecedented; about as many as now called the court too conservative in 1991, when Clarence Thomas was nominated to replace retiring Justice Thurgood Marshall.
On two specific recent rulings, the public splits: by 56-40 percent, most disapprove of a ruling restricting how school boards can use race to assign children to schools; but by 55-43 percent, most approve of the Supreme Court's decision upholding restrictions on so-called partial-birth abortion.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone July 18-21, 2007, among a random national sample of 1,125 adults. Additional interviews were conducted with an oversample of randomly selected African-Americans for a total of 210 black respondents. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.