Public opinion of the Supreme Court remains underwater but has improved by several percentage points since it dropped precipitously in June 2022 when the court overturned Roe v. Wade, according to a new poll.
Among U.S. adults responding to the latest Marquette Law School survey, 47 percent currently approve of the court, while 53 percent do not. The school interviewed 1,000 adults nationwide from Jan. 9 to Jan. 20. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
Support for the court was highest among Republicans (67 percent approval versus 33 percent disapproval) and lowest among Democrats (35–65) and independents (42–58), according to the new poll.
The 47 percent approval figure has been rising since it dipped to 38 percent in July 2022, in the aftermath of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision which, 49 years after the Roe decision, returned the regulation of abortion to the states.
Leaked to Media
At the same time, the high court also overturned a 1992 companion precedent known as Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which held that states can’t impose significant restrictions on abortion before a fetus becomes viable for life outside the womb.
A draft version of the Dobbs decision was leaked to the media last year, leading to nationwide protests by abortion activists, picketing of Supreme Court justices’ homes and targeted harassment of the justices in public, and a foiled attempt to kill Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
A subsequent court-led investigation failed to identify a culprit for the leak.
While the 35 percent approval figure by Democrats is low, it’s sharply higher than the polling figure for July 2022, in the weeks following the Dobbs ruling. At that time, Democratic support for the court plummeted to 15 percent.
The new poll found varying levels of confidence in the Supreme Court as an institution.
Only 8 percent have “a great deal” of confidence in the court, compared to 23 percent who have “quite a lot,” 38 percent who have “some,” and 23 percent who have “very little.” The 9 percent who said “none at all” describes how much confidence they have in the court.
Charles Franklin, director of the poll, told the local CBS affiliate in Milwaukee that the summertime drop in support came after the controversial Dobbs decision threw a national spotlight on the court, an institution the public doesn’t normally focus on.
Approval numbers are rising now that there is less of a media focus on it, he implied.
“For the vast majority of the public, those are topics they haven’t heard about, so as a result, when those decisions come down, the public is hearing about them for the first time and forming opinions,” Franklin said. “That’s part of the reason we see approval start to move back up.”
Franklin’s office didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.
The court had enjoyed higher approval ratings in recent years before the abortion decision.
In September 2020, the Marquette poll pegged approval at 66 percent compared to 33 percent disapproval. Approval/disapproval figures went on a downward trajectory after that, falling to 60–39 in July 2021 and going underwater in September 2021 when they fell to 49–50.
‘Bashing the Court’
In November 2021, approval outstripped disapproval 54–46 but headed underwater again in May 2022, registering at 44–55, before bottoming out at 38–61 in July 2022.
Veteran court watcher Curt Levey, president of the conservative Committee for Justice, said public approval figures for the court have to be taken “with a grain of salt because they depend a lot on how much Democrats and their allies in the media are bashing the court.”
Whatever the court’s faults may be, they don’t “change from month to month,” although the quantity and intensity of attacks from the Democrats and the media fluctuate, Levey told The Epoch Times in an interview.
After Dobbs, there was “a huge wave of that,” with Democrats claiming that Republicans had packed the court so Democrats needed to respond in kind, he said. There was legislation introduced in the House and Senate to expand the size of the court but it failed to pass, he added.
Democrats did a very good job convincing Americans that overturning Roe would make abortion illegal, but “that’s not what it meant—it just meant that it will be up to the states.”
With the politicizing of the court by activists it is difficult to imagine support for the court rising to 60 or 70 percent again in the future, Levey said.
“But I’m not surprised to see an uptick in support after reality has set in after all the hysteria” about the Dobbs decision has subsided.”