Public opinions on the U.S. Supreme Court have recently worsened in the country, new Gallup polling found.
A Gallup poll released Thursday found that approval of the job the high court is doing reached a new low while disapproval reached a new high. Additionally, the poll found a “steep decline” in the number of Americans who trust the federal government’s judicial branch and that more than ever think the court is “too conservative.”
The poll of 1,005 adults was conducted Sept. 1-17 with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Gallup points out that it comes shortly after the Supreme Court allowed a Texas abortion law — which bans abortions as soon as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many people know they are pregnant — to take effect.
It also comes after the court in August rejected an extension of the federal moratorium on evictions and refused to block vaccine mandates at colleges, Gallup notes.
Supreme Court approval reaches new low
Forty percent of respondents in the Gallup poll said they approve of the “way the Supreme Court is handling its job” while 53% said they disapprove.
That’s an all-time low approval since Gallup starting tracking approval in the year 2000. It’s also down from 49% who said they approve in July and 53% who said the same in September of last year. The disapproval rate also surpasses the previous high of 52% in 2016.
Approval fell among Republicans, Democrats and independents.
Forty-five percent of Republicans surveyed said they approve, down from 51% in July and 57% in September 2020, Gallup found. Among Democrats, 36% said they approve, down from 51% in July and 49% in September 2020. Meanwhile, 41% of independents approve, down from 46% in July and 53% in September 2020.
Gallup said the decline among Republicans “may seem at odds” with the court’s recent decision on the Texas abortion law as “most Republicans identify as pro-life and favor greater restrictions on abortion.”
The Texas law, which is enforced by allowing private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps a woman get an abortion, has been controversial. A Monmouth University poll released Monday found majorities of Americans disapprove of key components of the law and with the Supreme Court’s decision on it.
But Gallup noted that, while the decision on the Texas law has received the most attention, the “recent emergency rulings on college vaccine mandates and the eviction moratorium were also controversial.”
The poll also found that confidence and trust in the judicial branch have declined, from 67% last year to 54%, the second-lowest percentage recorded, this year.
“When it comes to confidence in the federal judiciary, Republicans show a much steeper drop from a year ago than Democrats or independents do, perhaps because of the change in the partisan power structure in Washington this year,” Gallup said.
Many see court as too conservative
The poll found a plurality, 40%, of respondents think the Supreme Court is “about right” in terms of ideology.
But a record percentage, 37%, think the court is “too conservative,” up from 32% last year. Meanwhile, 20% said they think the court is “too liberal,” down from 23% last year.
Opinions on the Supreme Court’s ideology broke down along party lines.
“The large majority of Democrats, 66%, describe the court as ‘too conservative,’ while 25% say it is ‘about right’ and 8% ‘too liberal,’” Gallup said. “In contrast, 56% of Republicans believe the Supreme Court’s ideology is about right while 33% say it is too liberal and 6% too conservative. Independents’ views exactly match the national average.”
Currently, the Supreme Court bench consists of six justices appointed by Republican presidents and three appointed by Democratic presidents.
Some justices have recently defended the Supreme Court and emphasized its independence.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett said to a crowd in Louisville, Kentucky, that the court “is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks” and is defined by “judicial philosophies” rather than political beliefs — pointing to cases in which the justices did not rule along party lines, according to the Louisville Courier Journal.
Justice Clarence Thomas said earlier this month at the University of Notre Dame that the high court must be “independent from political polarization” and warned about “destroying our institutions because they don’t give us what we want, when we want it,” The Hill reported.
He also criticized judges who ventured into “areas we should not have entered into,” the Associated Press reports.
“The court was thought to be the least dangerous branch and we may have become the most dangerous,” Thomas said, according to the AP. “And I think that’s problematic.”