Justices just like politicians? 53% have lost trust in the U.S. Supreme Court

‘Whether the perceptions registered in our survey are justified or not, they are worrisome.’

PHILADELPHIA — A new survey finds Americans are rapidly losing faith in the U.S. Supreme Court. According to the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, 53 percent now disapprove of how the nation’s highest court handles its business.

Specifically, the poll of 1,113 U.S. adults found only 46 percent have a great or fair amount of trust in the Supreme Court. That’s down from 68 percent in 2019. Researchers conducted the survey between Aug. 2nd and 13th, two months after the court overturned Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion.

The poll also found a growing division based on party affiliation. Although a person’s political party hasn’t made a noticeable difference in pervious APPC surveys, the newest poll finds trust in the court is becoming more and more dependent on whether someone is a Republican, Democrat, or independent.

“Whether the perceptions registered in our survey are justified or not, they are worrisome,” says Annenberg Public Policy Center Director Kathleen Hall Jamieson in a media release. “For the court to play its role in our system of government, it is important that it be perceived to be an independent branch that impartially and fairly bases its decisions on the Constitution, the law, and the facts of the case.”

Many Americans see Supreme Court justices as politicians

The poll found only 39 percent currently approve of the Supreme Court’s work. Another 53 percent say they have little to no trust in the court to operate in the best interests of the American people. However, the majority of Republicans (70%) still trust in the court, compared to just 32 percent of Democrats.

When it comes to the judges Americans have a say in, at the state and local levels, 90 percent say it’s essential for judges to rule based on the Constitution, the law, and the facts of the case. Interestingly, only 40 percent believe the members of the Supreme Court do the same and put politics aside.

Half of Americans in the poll (50%) strongly disapprove of the court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. With all the political polarization this ruling is causing, it’s no surprise that 50 percent now think Supreme Court justices “are just like any other politicians” and “we cannot trust them to decide court cases in a way that is in the best interest of our country.”

Nearly seven in 10 (69%) think the court is too “mixed up” in politics. That’s an increase of 12 percent since 2019.

Should the government step in?

While many people are not happy with the court currently, only 38 percent think Congress should be able to pass legislation that prevents the Supreme Court from ruling on certain topics.

However, 56 percent think the court should have less independence, ensuring that the justices listen more to what the people want. Nearly half the poll (48%) thinks the court should have less power to rule on controversial topics, up significantly from the 36 percent who felt this way in 2019.

Overall, 42 percent feel the court has too much power in 2022 — double the number (21%) that said this in 2019. However, only 26 percent of Americans want to abolish the court completely, an eight-percent drop from last year.

The findings come as the Supreme Court begins its fall term. In a recent speech, Chief Justice John Roberts defended the highest court’s integrity.

“The court has always decided controversial cases and decisions always have been subject to intense criticism and that is entirely appropriate,” Roberts told judges and lawyers. “You don’t want the political branches telling you what the law is. And you don’t want public opinion to be the guide of what the appropriate decision is. … But simply because people disagree with an opinion is not a basis for criticizing the legitimacy of the court.”

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