Supreme Court approval rating ticks up from July low

The Supreme Court’s job approval remains slightly underwater but has risen since the court’s landmark decision overturning federal abortion protections last summer, according to a new Marquette Law School poll.

The poll found 47 percent of U.S. adults approve of the court, compared to 53 percent who said they disapprove.

A majority of Americans had previously indicated approval, but that figure crashed to 38 percent after the court handed down its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization opinion in June that overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey abortion decisions.

The significant opposition to the court’s Dobbs decision has remained relatively static in the months since.

Sixty-four percent of respondents opposed the court’s ruling upholding Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, compared to 66 percent who did so in October, according to the poll.

Since the Supreme Court gave states the authority to more heavily regulate abortion, however, the court’s approval has somewhat recovered.

A September iteration of the poll found 40 percent approved of the court, 44 percent approved in November and the figure rose to 47 percent in the latest survey.

The Marquette poll found that approval is largely split by party, with Republicans more likely to indicate approval as the court’s 6-3 conservative majority makes their mark.

Just 35 percent of Democrats approve of the court, compared to 42 percent of independents and 67 percent of Republicans.

Nearly half of respondents — 49 percent — said they think politics motivates Supreme Court decisions more often than the law.

The justices have rejected notions of political motivations for their decisions, and the public skepticism comes as the court considers a number of significant, controversial cases in this year’s term.

“If over time the court loses all connection with the public and with public sentiment, that’s a dangerous thing for a democracy,” Justice Elena Kagan said in July, weeks after the court’s abortion decision.

Her remark and other veiled criticisms of the court’s conservative majority have drawn apparent criticisms from some of the other justices.

“It goes without saying that everyone is free to express disagreement with our decisions and to criticize our reasoning as they see fit. But saying or implying that the court is becoming an illegitimate institution or questioning our integrity crosses an important line,” Justice Samuel Alito, one of the court’s conservatives, told The Wall Street Journal in September.

The court’s docket this term includes cases about if colleges can use affirmative action, if a website designer must provide services to same-sex weddings and if state courts can overturn state legislatures’ decisions related to federal elections.

The poll found 49 percent of respondents had not heard enough to form an opinion on the affirmative action cases, where the justices will rule whether colleges can use race as one of several factors in deciding which applicants to admit.

Of those that did have an opinion, 68 percent said they favored race as an admissions factor, compared to 32 percent who opposed such a precedent.

The survey was conducted from Jan. 9 to Jan. 20 with 1,000 adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

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