The American public has expressed mounting disillusionment with the nation’s institutions for years — and that pessimism now appears to extend to the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to a new Gallup poll, just 4 in 10 Americans say they approve of the nation’s highest court, which represents the lowest rating on record.
Poll reveals downward trend
Over the course of the more than two decades that Gallup has tracked the number, approval of the court has had plenty of ups and downs.
The latest result represents a dramatic shift from just a year ago, however, when 58% of respondents said they approved. That was just a few points off of the highest point ever — 62% as recorded in 2000. Even as recently as July, Supreme Court approval stood at 49%.
As for the cause of the recent dip, it likely stems at least in part from the ire of progressives upset over the conservative majority’s decision to allow a strict abortion ban in Texas to remain in place. The Gallup survey was taken a short time after that ruling was handed down.
Approval dipped to nearly the same depths once during the George W. Bush administration and two times during the Obama years.
While partisan rifts continue to widen in most aspects of American life, the Supreme Court has generally remained above the fray. Gallup’s results, however, suggest that might be changing.
The public appears to be growing more cynical regarding the court, seeing justices more as a type of unaccountable policymaking body rather than impartial interpreters of the Constitution.
Court-related battles in recent years have apparently taken their toll on its reputation. Political divisions erupted ahead of the confirmation of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, both of whom were nominated by former President Donald Trump.
More recently, liberals unhappy with the conservative-leaning court have threatened to add additional seats to the bench in an effort to restore an ideological balance.
The Gallup poll found that 37% of respondents said the court is too conservative, compared to 40% who said the makeup is about right and 20% who believed it is too liberal.
Despite Trump’s ability to appoint three justices to the court, some conservatives have expressed disappointment over decisions they found more moderate than expected.