The Supreme Court’s approval rate is falling

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Zoë Petersen, Deseret News

The court of public opinion has turned against the nation’s top court.

A Marquette Law School poll found the U.S. Supreme Court’s approval is under water, with just 44% approval among U.S. adults, and 55% disapproval.

It’s a steep drop from Sept. 2020, when the court’s approval stood at 66%. Even as recently as this March, 54% approved.

The poll was conducted earlier this month, a week after the leaked draft ruling on Dobbs. v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization, a case that would overturn Roe v. Wade. A final Dobbs ruling overturning Roe would be unpopular, with 69% of U.S. adults opposing it, including 36% of Republicans and 65% of independents.

In addition to a looming Dobbs decision, questions have arisen over Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife Ginni, who texted former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows encouraging then-President Donald Trump to challenge the 2020 election results, and emailed state lawmakers in Arizona to send “a clean slate of Electors” after Trump narrowly lost the state.

The court has a 6-3 conservative majority, and a majority of Americans view the court through a partisan lens. The poll found 56% describe the Supreme Court as very or somewhat conservative. Just 34% believe it’s moderate, down from 50% who thought so in 2019, and 10% believe it’s liberal.

The poll found a strong correlation between self-described ideology and attitudes on the court, with roughly two-thirds of those who identify as very or somewhat conservative approving of the court. Among those who are somewhat liberal, 40% approve, while among the very liberal, it’s just 29%.

Justice Thomas told a conference for conservatives and libertarians earlier this month that the leak of the draft Dobbs opinion hurt trust in the court.

“I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them,” Thomas said, according to the Washington Post. “And then I wonder when they’re gone or destabilized, what we’re going to have as a country.”

Trust in institutions is waning generally, but the Supreme Court has typically managed to avoid the ultra low approval ratings typical of modern presidents and Congress. The direction of recent polling suggests, however, that isn’t an inevitability.

The Marquette Law School poll included 1,004 adult respondents and a margin of error of +/-3.9 percentage points.

D. Hunter Schwarz

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