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Tipsheet

Poll: John Roberts Earns Majority Approval From...Liberals?

Appointed by a Republican president, one would think Chief Justice John Roberts would be a beloved jurist on the American right. As it turns out, however, he is no Antonin Scalia.

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After saving Obamacare twice in two separate rulings, as his critics inevitably contend, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (and George W. Bush appointee) is surprisingly well-liked by progressives, of all people. Hmm:

A new Morning Consult poll shows half of self-described Republican voters, and 55 percent of self-identified conservatives, disapprove of the job Roberts is doing as chief justice. Only 29 percent of Republicans and 23 percent of conservatives say they approve of his job performance.

Among Democrats, Roberts is doing just fine: 51 percent of self-identified Democrats and 57 percent of those who called themselves liberal approve of his job performance. Only 19 percent of Democrats and 20 percent of liberals disapproved. And 52 percent of those who voted for President Obama say they’re okay with the way the chief justice does his job.

None of this really matters, of course, as Roberts has tenure and appointment for life on the nation's highest court. No one is taking his job, in other words. Still, while some contend that Roberts is more concerned with cementing his legacy than judging hot-button Supreme Court cases objectively, and thus on the merits, the bench was designed to give justices like Roberts the widest latitude possible to rule freely and without political consequences. (And he has done so accordingly, much to the frustration and consternation of many conservatives).

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On the other hand, let’s not forget that John Roberts is hardly a liberal on social issues, despite all the vitriol directed his way lately. He voted against legalizing same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges, even writing the dissenting opinion to the shame and anger of marriage equality activists everywhere. Nonetheless, 57 percent of self-described liberals still give him two thumbs up. (The poll was conducted over a four-day period, beginning June 26, the same day the historic opinion was issued).

I suppose, then, this poll reminds us that Supreme Court justices cannot (and should not) be relied upon to vote or rule a certain way merely because of whom they were appointed by.

Chief Justice Roberts' opinions, after all, are usually — and frustratingly — unpredictable.

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