Confidence in Supreme Court declines to record lows since Dobbs decision
Less than a year after Roe v. Wade was overturned, the court has lost the trust of most respondents in multiple polls.
Although their views on abortion may differ by party, the majority of Americans support a person’s right to abortion and oppose extreme laws that ban it. The conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the constitutional right to abortion affirmed in the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, has caused confidence in the court to plummet, according to a new survey.
The General Social Survey, the latest in a series of interviews aimed at gathering data on Americans’ attitudes, opinions and behavior, conducted by NORC (originally called the National Opinion Research Center) at the University of Chicago in 2022, asked respondents to answer questions regarding their confidence in the Supreme Court.
According to analysis from the Associated Press, the survey of between 1,500 and 4,000 adults, which began on May 5, 2022, and ended on Dec. 20, 2022, found that Americans clearly lack trust in the court.
Comparing 2021 to 2022, the survey found an 8% decline in the overall confidence Americans have in the court: 26% of respondents reported a great deal of confidence in 2021, but only 18% did in 2022. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they had “hardly any” confidence in the court, and 46% said they had “only some” — the highest percentages of public distrust in the court since the General Social Survey first began gathering data in 1972.
The survey found that even with a conservative majority on the court, Republican respondents had lost confidence as well, with 26% having “a great deal” of trust in the court in 2022, 5 points lower than in 2021, when 31% of Republicans said the same.
Among women, overall confidence levels fell from 22% in 2021 to 12% in 2022.
Only 8% of Democrats had confidence in the court in 2022, compared to 25% in 2021.
For respondents who believed entirely in a person’s right to choose to have an abortion for any reason, only 12% reported that they felt confident, compared to 25% in 2021.
The court’s decision ending a federal right to abortion may have caused a loss of trust, and it doesn’t appear to represent the desires of the majority of Americans.
“What was amazing before Dobbs was that you had all the science, all the evidence, all the medical associations saying, Don’t do this, don’t overturn Roe. And that’s just based on wanting better, promoting better maternal child health,” Terry McGovern, a professor and chair of the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, told the American Independent Foundation. “There was already this kind of weird situation where the Supreme Court is just ignoring science and expertise. … I do a lot of work in the states’ refusal to invest in maternal child health, refusal to invest in programs that would reduce teenage pregnancy, sexuality education. But even things like cervical cancer screening, all kinds of things they refuse to invest in. So this kind of, We care about life, doesn’t ring true, certainly in terms of maternal health, but also children.”
In February, the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonpartisan organization, released the results of its annual American Values Atlas survey. Data was collected from March to December 2022, and responses were gathered from 22,984 adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The results show that views on the legality of abortion have radically changed since 2010.
Fifteen percent of Americans said abortion should be illegal in all cases in 2010, but by the end of 2022, only 7% of respondents felt that way.
In April, a national survey of American adults conducted by Marist for “PBS NewsHour” and National Public Radio asked respondents for their views of bans on medication abortion. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said they opposed laws that restricted access to medical abortions; 73% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans surveyed said they opposed such restrictions.
In a separate poll, Marist asked 1,291 respondents about the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, and 59% said they opposed it.
Despite polls and surveys that show that restrictive abortion bans are extremely unpopular, Republican lawmakers continue to push for them. Abortion is now banned in 15 states, according to a tracker maintained by the Guttmacher Institute. Former President Donald Trump said recently he was very honored to help overturn Roe.
Columbia’s McGovern said trust in the Supreme Court can’t be separated from the issue of corruption.
In April, allegations emerged that Justice Clarence Thomas had been taking money and gifts from a conservative Texas billionaire and failing to disclose them on any financial statements. According to ProPublica, for nearly two decades, the chairman of Crow Holdings, Harlan Crow, treated Thomas and his wife Virginia to luxurious trips and several properties — including one for Thomas’ mother.
In September, Ginni Thomas voluntarily testified before the House select committee investigating Jan. 6, 2021, regarding her involvement in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. According to the Washington Post, Thomas allegedly communicated with Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, dozens of times to encourage him to investigate the possibility of election fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Thomas attended Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6.
First of all, just in terms of the Supreme Court, there’s all this going against public opinion, unleashing chaos, overlooking evidence. So there’s all that, but there’s also this corruption issue. You know, obviously, Clarence Thomas, his wife. But the whole thing is unseemly: the leaking of the decision, many of these justices saying they didn’t have an opinion on Roe, and clearly they did, they wouldn’t overturn it. So I think there’s a real trust issue with the court.
McGovern added that she thought the Dobbs decision was going to play a role in upcoming elections: “I do think that this issue is going to hurt the Republicans in terms of election. I think it’s really going to hurt them. I think the further we get out, the more is going to emerge about the damage that this decision has done and continues to do. I think it’s not a good issue for them. So it’s going to be interesting to see how they deal with it.”
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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