us supreme court
us supreme court

A new Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows that Americans’ confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court has collapsed over the last 20 months — a period that began with former President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans installing a 6-3 conservative majority ahead of the 2020 election and culminated last week with the leak of a draft opinion signaling that five GOP-appointed justices plan to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,577 U.S. adults interviewed online from May 3 to 6, 2022. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2020 presidential vote (or nonvote) and voter registration status. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.7%.

A report by Yahoo News said:

The last time Yahoo News/YouGov asked about confidence in the court was in September 2020 — a few days after liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and a few days before Trump nominated conservative jurist Amy Coney Barrett to replace her.

Back then, 70% of registered voters said they had either “some” (50%) or “a lot” (20%) of confidence in the court, and 30% said they had either “a little” (23%) or “none” (7%).

But the new survey of 1,577 U.S. adults, which was conducted immediately after the leak, found that registered voters have swung from mostly having confidence in the Supreme Court — by a colossal 40-point margin — to being evenly split on the question.

Today, just half of voters still express some (37%) or a lot (14%) of confidence in the court, while the other half now expresses either a little (24%) or none (26%).

And among all Americans — as opposed to just registered voters — most (53%) now say they have either no confidence in the Supreme Court (28%) or only a little (25%).

The report said:

Views on key aspects of American life rarely shift that suddenly. The question is why.

On May 5, Chief Justice John Roberts blasted the leak of Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion, calling it “absolutely appalling” and saying he hopes “one bad apple” will not change “people’s perception” of the nation’s highest court. Many Republican politicians have also framed the breach of protocol — rather than the momentous opinion it revealed, or the overall direction of the court — as a threat that could “severely damage” the institution. Roberts has ordered the court’s marshal, Col. Gail A. Curley, to investigate what happened.

But the new Yahoo News/YouGov poll suggests that the leak itself may not be the Supreme Court’s main problem. For starters, Americans are divided over whether the leak is a “good thing” (30%), a “bad thing” (37%) or something they’re not sure about (33%). Secondly, politics is clearly playing a part here. Driven by an assumption that the leaker was “pro-choice” (38%) rather than “pro-life” (20%) — an assumption that has yet to be confirmed — far more Republicans consider the leak bad (59%) than good (19%), and far more Democrats consider it good (50%) than bad (20%).

The ideological shift of the Supreme Court may be the bigger issue. In September 2020, 29% of registered voters saw the court as either “conservative” (25%) or “very conservative” (4%). Today, that combined number is 44%, with nearly six times as many voters as before saying “very conservative” (22%). Among registered voters who are Democrats, the share who say “conservative” or “very conservative” has shot up from 42% to 58%; among independents, it has jumped from 29% to 41%; and even among Republicans it has risen from 16% to 31%. The overall share of registered voters who describe the court as “moderate” has fallen nearly 10 points over the same period, to 30%.

At the same time, confidence in the Supreme Court has taken a hit across the board, declining 25 points among Democrats (to 39%), 20 points among independents (to 48%) and 11 points among Republicans (to 71%). A full three-quarters of registered voters (74%) now think the court has become “too politicized” (up from 67% in September 2020), with roughly equal increases in perceptions of politicization among Democrats (up from 69% to 75%), independents (up from 70% to 76%) and Republicans (up from 65% to 73%).

It isn’t hard to explain why Democrats (78% of whom believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases) and independents (54% of whom believe the same) have turned against the court; they are by and large less conservative than the justices who now control it. That also explains why the number of Democrats (65%) and independents (49%) who disapprove of the job the court is doing has doubled since September 2020.

But here’s the thing: The number of Republicans who disapprove of the job the Supreme Court is doing has jumped as well, from just 17% then to 29% today. Incidentally, 31% of Republicans also believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases — suggesting that the current majority of justices may be too conservative for them too.

Likewise, more Americans say they view the four justices who have reportedly voted against overturning Roe v. Wade favorably than unfavorably: Justice Sonia Sotomayor (37% favorable vs. 27% favorable); Justice Elena Kagan (32% favorable vs. 23% unfavorable); Justice Stephen Breyer (33% favorable vs. 22% unfavorable); and Chief Justice Roberts (32% favorable to 28% unfavorable). In contrast, all five of the conservative justices who have reportedly voted to overturn Roe are viewed more unfavorably than favorably.

So while politicization is a problem that everyone seems to recognize — and bemoan — declining confidence in the court probably has less to do with protocol than policy. A growing number of Americans — Democrats, independents and even some Republicans — disapprove of the Supreme Court for the simple reason that they disagree with its new direction.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) speaks about the Senate’s upcoming procedural vote to codify Roe v. Wade at the Capitol on May 5, 2022. | Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A Claim

A Politico report — Supreme Court justices ‘misled the Senate,’ Gillibrand said (https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/08/supreme-court-justices-misled-the-senate-gillibrand-said-00030900, 05/08/2022) said:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Sunday that multiple Supreme Court justices lied in their confirmation hearings about abortion, echoing the statements of Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins in the wake of the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion.

“If a corporation put these kind of statements in their quarterly filings, they would be seen to be purposefully misleading and deemed fraud,”

The report by Hannah Farrow said:

Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think they misled the Senate with the intention of getting their confirmation vote with the intention of overruling Roe.”

Gillibrand was addressing last week’s leak of a draft opinion that showed the Supreme Court was prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationally.

“Four justices in the last hearings I’ve witnessed have said that precedent matters and that precedent is the foundation of our legal system,” she said. “And so if they just feel they can just upend this precedent because they don’t like it today, well, that’s inconsistent with what they promised.”

Collins (R-Maine) last week said she felt betrayed by what she saw in the draft opinion. “If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice [Neal] Gorsuch and Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office,” Collins said in a statement. Murkowski (R-Alaska) made a similar statement: “It was not the direction that I believed that the court would take, based on statements that have been made about Roe being settled and being precedent.”

Overturning Roe v. Wade would take away women’s right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, Gillibrand emphasized — not men’s. She said she’d like to get rid of the Senate’s filibuster and “vote for our values.”

When questioned whether ridding of the filibuster could in the future give Republicans the ability to make abortions illegal nationwide — something Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said is possible — Gillibrand said, “I don’t think the argument that Mitch McConnell will do bad things is persuasive at this point. [Those bad things] are already happening.”

On “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) flipped the notion about judicial nominees lying on its head, saying it was inappropriate for senators to push nominees on their views on specific cases before voting to confirm them.

“You can’t bargain your way into getting onto the court,” he said. “So any senator who tries to bargain with a nominee — Will you uphold the case I like or overturn the ones I don’t? — is really doing a disservice to the court.”


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