Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan, two of the three Democrat-appointed justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, have been warning that public opinion continues to go from bad to worse where the High Court is concerned. According to polls, the Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — which overturned Roe v. Wade after 49 years — is wildly unpopular.
Journalist Matt Ford, in an article published by The New Republic on September 26, stresses that the public’s view of the High Court continues to deteriorate. Post-Dobbs polls, according to Ford, show “a clear and unambiguous shift in how the American people perceive the Court since it overturned Roe v. Wade this summer — and a growing willingness to rein in the justices’ ideological shift.”
“On June 23,” Ford explains, “Gallup found that only 25 percent of Americans said that they had either a great deal of confidence or quite a lot of confidence in the High Court. That represented a 5 percent drop from the previous low in 2014, as well as a 10 percent decline from the 2021 survey. The Gallup poll technically preceded the release of the Court’s decision in Dobbs on June 24. But it came more than a month after Politico published a draft copy of Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in the case, which all but proved that the Court would overturn Roe later that month.”
Ford continues, “Next came a survey by the Pew Research Center on September 1. It incorporated the entire period after Dobbs’ release and found an even deeper shift in public opinion about the Supreme Court in three significant ways. First, it found that the Court’s overall favorability ratings were underwater for the first time since it began asking Americans in 1987, with 49 percent of Americans viewing the Court unfavorably and 48 percent favorably. That was a sharp reversal from two years ago when 70 percent of Americans said they viewed the Court favorably and 28 percent said they didn’t. In essence, nearly a third of Americans have changed their mind about the Supreme Court over the past two years.”
Ford notes that Pew has found “a major partisan divide in how people view the Court.”
“While 67 percent of Democrats described themselves as favorable in 2020,” Ford observes, “only 28 percent said the same thing in 2022. Republican support, by comparison, clocked in at 73 percent…. The third notable finding from Pew was a growing sense that the Supreme Court as an institution had grown too strong. Only 25 percent of Americans said, in 2020, that the justices had too much power. That number jumped to 45 percent after Dobbs…. The terminology that we use to describe this situation — a crisis of legitimacy, a loss of prestige and authority, a decline in popularity, or something else — matters less than its practical implications.”
Ford continues, “The Supreme Court has shown little to no interest in not taking up cases that resolve major political issues in the conservative legal movement’s favor, even if it is out of step with public opinion. A strong plurality, and perhaps even a narrow majority, of the American people is not only unsatisfied with this trend, but is also increasingly supportive of proposals that would prevent or reverse it. Eventually, one of these sides will have to win or give way.”