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Disapproval Of Supreme Court—Especially Among Democrats—Eases In New Poll

Forbes 1/25/2023 Alison Durkee, Forbes Staff


The share of Americans who approve of the Supreme Court is going back up again after plunging when the court overturned Roe v. Wade, a new Marquette Law School poll finds—with Democrats seeing the largest rise—but a majority of Americans still disapprove of the court, and its public image remains far below where it was several years ago.

The U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. Getty Images © Provided by Forbes The U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. Getty Images

Key Facts

The poll, conducted January 9-20 among 1,000 respondents, found 47% of respondents approve of the Supreme Court, while 53% disapprove.

That’s up from 44% approval in November and 38% in July, right after the Supreme Court’s last term ended, which was a record low for the court’s approval since Marquette started tracking in September 2020.

The increase in the court’s approval was largely driven by Democrats, going from 15% in July to 35% now, versus 67% approval among Republicans—the same as July—and Independents’ approval going from 39% to 42%.

The court’s approval rating is still far below where it was in 2020, when 66% approved of the court, and 60% approved of it in July 2021.

Many Americans approve of the court but don’t necessarily trust it, as only 31% reported having a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the court, up from 28% in July.

It’s unclear what caused the rise in popularity for the court—which hasn’t issued any major rulings since its last term ended over the summer—but it could have to do with people having less awareness of what’s going on with it this term, with a plurality saying they’d heard nothing or not enough about major pending cases on college admissions, LGBTQ rights and voting.

Big Number

49%. That’s the share of respondents who said they believe politics, rather than the law, motivates the court’s decisions, down from 52% in July but far up from 37% who believed that in September 2020 and 29% who believed that in July 2021. A 59% majority of respondents believe the court is “very” or “somewhat” conservative.

What To Watch For

The court has a number of major rulings coming up this term that could further impact public opinion, including cases on student loan forgiveness, affirmative action in college admissions, elections and LGBTQ rights. The Marquette poll found respondents may largely approve of the court if they overturn affirmative action—as they seem poised to do—with 68% saying they’d favor such a decision. A court case that could result in the Supreme Court allowing businesses to more easily discriminate against LGBTQ people was much less popular, however, with 57% saying they’d oppose a decision saying business owners are justified in refusing services.

What We Don’t Know

Marquette’s polling was conducted largely before the Supreme Court revealed last week that it had still not been able to find the person who leaked a draft opinion of its abortion ruling to the press following a months-long investigation, and reports suggested justices were not scrutinized as heavily as part of that probe. It’s unclear how or if that news would affect Americans’ broader opinion of the court.

Key Background

The 6-3 conservative Supreme Court’s public image has taken a significant hit in recent months as Americans have perceived the court to be driven by politics, as the court has taken up a series of cases involving partisan topics like abortion, gun rights and immigration and ruled largely in Republicans’ favor. A series of polls have repeatedly shown the court’s approval ratings falling to record lows, and the court’s ruling in June overturning Roe v. Wade led to security threats against justices as protests swelled opposing their decision. A number of Supreme Court justices have spoken out against the criticism and argued the court isn’t driven by partisan ideologies, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who claimed her and her colleagues aren’t “partisan hacks” and now-retired Justice Stephen Breyer, who told the Washington Post in September 2021 that justices aren’t “junior-league politicians.”

Further Reading

New Marquette Law School national survey finds overall approval of U.S. Supreme Court has ticked up from post-Dobbs low six months ago (Marquette Law School)

Most Americans Don’t Think Supreme Court Acts In A ‘Serious And Constitutional Manner’ And Want Reforms, Poll Finds (Forbes)

Public Confidence In Supreme Court Sinks To 25%, Poll Says (Forbes)

Supreme Court Trust, Job Approval at Historical Lows (Gallup)

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