Analysis: Confidence in the Supreme Court is at a low level


Fewer than half of Americans say they have “a great deal” or “some confidence” in the judicial branch led by the Supreme Court, according to new Gallup polls. This is the lowest number since Gallup began measuring the trend five decades ago, and Roe v. He talks about how damaging the judge’s decision to overturn Wade is. this past summer has been its general popularity among the public.

Only 47% of adults in the Gallup poll expressed even some confidence in the judicial branch of the federal government, a staggering 20-point drop over the past two years and a 7-point drop from last year. As Gallup’s Jeffrey M. Jones notes: “The grim image of the judicial branch contrasts with confidence levels that have topped two-thirds in most years in a Gallup trend that began in 1972.”

And it is not only the judiciary that is far behind its historic image of trust. 4 in 10 Americans say they approve of the way the Supreme Court is handling its work, while 58% disapprove. It matches the lowest approval rating Gallup has ever recorded for the Supreme Court.

The court is simply at its lowest point in terms of public opinion in the history of Gallup polls.

There is a direct line between the Roe decision and the current image of the court among the public. a year ago Half of Democrats said they had “a great deal” or “some” confidence in the court. In the latest Gallup polls, this number is 25%; it’s a dramatic decline, the first time fewer than half of Democrats have expressed a lack of faith in the court in a Gallup poll.

More than 7 in 10 Democrats (71%) said the Supreme Court is “too conservative,” while only 18% said its ideology was “correct” and 9% said it was “too liberal.” Nearly half of independents (46%) said the court is “too conservative,” while a majority of Republicans (58%) said the court’s ideology is “correct.”

The politicization of the Supreme Court is something Chief Justice John Roberts has long worried about and hoped to avoid. “When you live in a polarized political environment, people tend to see everything in those terms,” ​​Roberts said in 2019. “That’s not how it works in court and the results of our cases don’t suggest otherwise.”

The leak of the draft Roe decision – and the subsequent ruling that ended the constitutional right to abortion – appears to be, at least in the short term, the death knell for Roberts’ hopes that the Supreme Court will not rule. political winds (Roberts called the leak of a draft of Roe decision “absolutely terrible”).

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the decision that overturned Roe, pushed back against the court’s criticism earlier this week. “It goes without saying that everyone is free to disagree with our decisions and criticize our reasoning as they see fit,” Alito told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. “But to say or imply that the court is becoming an illegal institution or question our integrity crosses an important line.”

The erosion of trust in the judiciary comes amid a broader decline in trust in almost every major American institution. Gallup polls this summer found “significant declines” in trust in 11 of the 16 major U.S. institutions it tested, and not a single one of those institutions had become more trusted in the past year. In the poll, which was conducted before the Roe ruling, 1 in 4 Americans expressed “a great deal” or “somewhat” confidence in the Supreme Court, down 11 points from the previous year.

The court now operates in this atmosphere of mistrust and dissatisfaction. The dream of staying above politics appears dead, at least for now.