Poll: Americans have relatively high confidence in Supreme Court

A Gallup survey found that 37 percent of Americans have a great deal of confidence in the Supreme Court, while another 42 percent have "some" confidence. Fewer Americans – only 11 percent – have high confidence in Congress. 

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
A recent Gallup survey shows the majority of Americans have high or some confidence in the Supreme Court.

The next Supreme Court justice will join the bench at a time when the public has more confidence in the high court than in Congress or the presidency.

A Gallup survey in June found 37 percent of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the court, while another 42 percent have "some" confidence. Only 18 percent have little or no confidence in the court.

Those are sterling marks compared with the court's neighbor on Capitol Hill: Just 11 percent of Americans say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress and nearly half say they have little or no confidence in the nation's legislature.

Down Pennsylvania Avenue, confidence in the White House is on par with that of the Supreme Court – though 44 percent of Americans have little or no confidence in it.

While the public's overall view of the court has remained steady over the past decade, there's been a shift this year as Republicans and GOP-leaning independents were more likely to express confidence in the court than Democrats and left-leaning independents were.

That change comes after a just-concluded term in which retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with conservative-leaning justices on rulings that blessed President Trump's ban on travel from several Muslim nations, placed new limits on public-employee unions, and struck down a California law aimed at regulating anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, among others.

Mr. Trump's choice – a former Kennedy clerk, Brett Kavanaugh, who currently sits on the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit – will almost certainly push the court to the right. More Americans believe the court is "too conservative" than say it's "too liberal," according to a Quinnipiac poll conducted after Justice Kennedy announced his plans to step down.

But 41 percent of Americans think the court's ideological balance is about right.

A look at public opinion on some of the key issues facing the justices in the coming years:

Abortion rights 

Trump's nominee is sure to face an avalanche of questions about the court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that established a women's constitutional right to abortion. A majority of Americans thinks the court shouldn't overturn Roe and most think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

In mid-June, before Kennedy's retirement announcement, a poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 67 percent of Americans would not like to see Roe overturned, while 29 percent would. There are no differences in that opinion between men and women, though younger women are especially likely to say they do not want to see Roe overturned.

Democrats overwhelmingly support Roe, while Republicans narrowly support overturning the decision, the poll found.

The Kaiser poll's findings largely match results in others surveys on the topic, regardless of question wording or polling organization conducting the research.

Trump's travel ban 

In a 5-to-4 decision announced at the end of the court's recently concluded term, the Supreme Court upheld Trump's ban on travel into the United States for citizens of several majority-Muslim countries, as well as North Korea and some Venezuelan government officials and their families.

After the ruling, a Quinnipiac poll found Americans split over the issue. While 49 percent of the public approve of the court's decision, another 46 percent disapprove. As with many issues with ties to Trump, the public is divided across partisan lines, with Republicans mostly approving of the policy and Democrats largely opposed.

Voting rights 

Before the 2020 presidential elections, the court may revisit several cases it sent back to the lower courts this term that confront the fairness of electoral maps and issues related to voting rights.

Poll results on gerrymandering are limited, but a Pew Research Center survey earlier this year measured the public's views on the importance of specific aspects of American elections.

A wide 83 percent majority said it is very important that no eligible voters are prevented from voting, while about two-thirds said it was very important that no ineligible voters are permitted to vote. Roughly three-quarters placed great importance on congressional districts being determined in a fair and reasonable way.

In assessing both issues, there is a clear partisan split. Republicans are more likely to say ineligible voters casting ballots is a problem, while Democrats are more focused on issues with voting access. They also focus on political gerrymandering, which is less of an issue for Republicans.

Religious liberty and LGBT rights 

The court will continue to face cases involving conflict between businesses that cite faith-based objections to laws aimed at protecting the rights of gay and lesbian people.

It's difficult for a survey questions to clearly and responsibly reflect the debate over specific gay-rights issues, such as businesses refusing services to same-sex couples or restroom policies as they relate to transgender people.

However, in May 2017, a Gallup poll found Americans divided over whether new civil rights laws are needed to reduce discrimination against LGBT people: 51 percent said new laws are needed, while 46 percent said they are not.

Death Penalty 

The Supreme Court is also sure to hear cases in future terms from death row inmates seeking stays of execution. Earlier this year, a Pew Research Center survey found public support for the death penalty for those convicted of murder.

A modest 54 percent majority of Americans favor the death penalty, compared with 39 percent who are opposed. Support for the death penalty has fallen over the past two decades, though the shift in opinion is concentrated among Democrats and independents. Republicans remain largely in favor of capital punishment.

Gun rights 

The court has not taken on a major gun rights case since 2010, but it may be more likely to do so with a new voice on the bench.

Earlier this year, a survey by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found Americans in favor of stricter gun laws. A 69 percent majority said gun laws in the US should be tougher, compared with 22 percent who thought they should be left as they are, and just 9 percent who said they should be less strict.

This story was reported by The Associated Press. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Poll: Americans have relatively high confidence in Supreme Court
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today