Do Americans Think SCOTUS Bases Decisions On Political Views?

Posted: Oct 21, 2021 10:30 AM
Do Americans Think SCOTUS Bases Decisions On Political Views?

Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

This month, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) began a new term. A poll published shortly after detailed the number of Americans who believe SCOTUS should be limited in its power or abolished altogether if it began making decisions the public or Congress disagreed with. A poll published this week centered around Americans' opinions on SCOTUS and if they think the justices' political views are the driving force behind its decisions.

Data from a poll published Wednesday shows that the majority of Americans – six in ten – believe that SCOTUS bases its decisions on the justices' political beliefs rather than the Constitution and law. Specifically, 62 percent of respondents say the justices' political beliefs influence its decisions, while 30 percent say the Constitution does. Eight percent of respondents were unsure. 

The survey, which came from the polling firm Selzer & Company and Grinnell College, also broke the results down based on political party. Across the political spectrum, 60 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Democrats, and 63 percent of Independents say they believe politics drives the decision-making of SCOTUS.

"This is a nightmare scenario for Chief Justice John Roberts, who has sought to protect the court's reputation as an apolitical institution," Grinnell College National Poll Director Peter Hanson said in the write-up. "The court faces a public convinced that its decisions are about politics rather than the constitution, just as it prepares to make important decisions on abortion, guns, and affirmative action." 

Additionally, the poll asked respondents their opinions on President Biden and his leadership on specific political issues. Similar to other recent polls, the findings showed Biden's approval rating decreasing. Overall, and in three specific areas, Biden's approval ratings are under 50 percent. 

When respondents were asked whether or not they approve of the job President Biden is doing in office, only 37 percent approve. Fifty percent disapprove. On the issue of immigration, specifically, 27 percent approve of Biden's job and 58 percent disapprove. On the economy, 36 percent approve, 53 percent disapprove. In a follow-up question, only 36 percent of respondents said they believe the economy will be in a stronger position in 12 months. 

"Right now, the math is simple: a majority of Americans believe the economy will be doing worse in 12 months than it is today, and that pessimism is keeping President Biden's approval ratings in the basement," Hanson explained.

When asked about a potential Trump versus Biden 2024 election, 40 percent of likely voters said they would vote for Trump, and 40 percent said they would vote for Biden. Fourteen percent said they'd choose another candidate altogether. 

"While Biden polls stronger among his Democratic base than Trump does among Republicans, Biden's support among independent voters has collapsed," the write-up said. J Ann Selzer, who also spearheaded the survey, explained this further.

"In 2020 exit polling, President Biden won independent voters by a 54% to 41% margin," Selzer said in the write-up. "If the election were held today, our poll shows former President Trump winning that group 45% to 28%. It is a massive shift in a demographic that helped carry Biden to victory less than two years ago." Other polls recently have shown that Republicans support Trump running again in 2024 while Biden's approval rating continues to sink.

"The president has time to turn his political fortunes around," said Hanson. "But if it doesn't happen soon, Democrats are likely to face a serious reckoning in the 2022 midterm elections." 

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