You really have to be naive or to restate the question in your head before answering to resist the "sometimes" and say legal analysis only, but 13% did. 7% had the wits to quibble with or qualify the question and say that some of the Justices do or "it depends." The restrained "don't know" crowd dwindles to 4% at this point (which I think suggests that they took advantage of the "sometimes" prompt in the question and jumped on the obvious "yes").
Here's the analysis in the NYT by Adam Liptak and Allison Kopicki, who stress that the approval level is as low as it's been in a quarter century. But why is approval on the decline? Is it because of the new Obama appointees and what's going on with the liberal wing of the Court? Or is it John Roberts and the coterie of conservatives that the NYT would like to push back? The poll questions do not attempt to extract this particularity.
They don't ask, for example: 1. Do you think that the Supreme Court should strike down statutes that exceed the Framers idea of limited, enumerated powers?, 2. Do you think that the Court should define constitutional rights to accord with evolving notions of equality and individual autonomy?, 3. Can you name a Supreme Court Justice who is accurately applying legal analysis without regard to his or her own personal or political views?, 4. Can you name a Supreme Court Justice who has allowed his or her personal or political views to influence decisionmaking?
Different answers to questions like that could take us in quite different directions. But Liptak and Kopecki seem to assume that the conservatives are the problem:
The decline... could reflect a sense that the court is more political, after the ideologically divided 5-to-4 decisions in Bush v. Gore, which determined the 2000 presidential election, and Citizens United, the 2010 decision allowing unlimited campaign spending by corporations and unions....But:
On the highest-profile issue now facing the court, the poll found that more than two-thirds of Americans hope that the court overturns some or all of the 2010 health care law when it rules, probably this month. There was scant difference in the court’s approval rating between supporters and opponents of the law.You can hope for the outcome that you like politically, but still think that the Court ought to do its work in accordance with a purely legal methodology, and you should worry that the Justices are imposing their own political and policy notions as they decide cases. That combination of attitudes is perfectly sensible. In addition, it's natural for human beings to perceive that the judges who aren't doing it right are the ones who are reaching the outcomes that they don't like. That's how the mind works. It's so banal I'm a little embarrassed to put it down in plain words.
The court’s tepid approval ratings crossed ideological lines and policy agendas. Liberals and conservatives both registered about 40 percent approval rates. Forty-three percent of people who hoped the court would strike down the health care law approved of its work, but so did 41 percent of those who favored keeping the law.
And yet, I expect you to argue with me about it. I expect comments that will demonstrate exactly the thing that I just said was natural for human beings to perceive.