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Do the New Approval Numbers for the Supreme Court Really Matter?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

There has been tremendous amounts of fear-mongering now that the U.S. Supreme Court has finally handed down the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade and returned the abortion issue back to the states. 

Pro-abortion Democrats have looked to call for an end to the filibuster, schemes to pack the Supreme Court, and other tactics, as they claim that the Court has delegitimized itself in the eyes of the American people. Some, including California's Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, have pointed to polling that does not look too good for the Court.

The 25 percent approval rating that Kounalakis was referring to during her MSNBC appearance last Friday comes from a Gallup poll that was released on June 23, the day before Dobbs was officially handed down. 

A poll-write up from Jeffrey M. Jones notes that the 25 percent figure is a "historic low," down from the previous record low of 30 percent in 2014. The approval breakdown by political party is significant, as only 13 percent of Democrats have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the Court, while 25 percent of Independents and 39 percent of Republicans do. It's worth noting that this 39 percent figure is a slight increase from 2021, when it was at 37 percent.

That poll was conducted June 1-20, with 1,015 adult respondents and a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. 

Another poll that had many noteworthy findings in it came on Monday from NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist, which Madeline and I also highlighted when it comes to how Democrats now appear more motivated to vote based on the decision, and how many are buying into the fear-mongering talking points that this Dobbs decision could lead to the Court taking away the rights to contraception, same-sex marriage, or interracial marriage. This is despite how Justice Samuel Alito in his official opinion went out of his way to make clear that the Dobbs decision only affects abortion. 

The poll also found, though, that "39% of Americans say they have either a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the Supreme Court."

That poll was conducted June 24-25 with 941 adult respondents and a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points. 

On Tuesday morning, a Yahoo! News write-up from Andrew Romano went with the headline about how "Confidence in Supreme Court collapses as just 33% agree with decision to overturn Roe v. Wade."

When it comes to overall approval in the Court, there's again a breakdown by political party for this Yahoo! News/YouGov survey, Romano writes:

Since Roe was officially reversed, however, the number of Americans who express a total lack of confidence in the court has soared by 14 percentage points (to 39%), with large increases among Democrats (+24 points) and independents (+14 points). A clear majority of Democrats (54%) now say they have zero confidence in the court, while another 22% say they have only “a little”; just a quarter have “some” (18%) or “a lot” (7%).

At the same time, half of all Americans (50%) now disapprove of the way the Supreme Court is doing its job, an 8-point jump from last month (driven by increases of 11 points among both Democrats [to 70%] and independents [to 52%]). Overall, just 37% of Americans approve.

And even fewer (33%) say they agree with the court’s actual decision to overturn Roe v. Wade — the decision at the center of its collapsing reputation.

Romano makes no mention of Republican respondents in his write-up. Sixty-seven percent of Republicans have "a lot" or "some" confidence in the Court, while only 32 percent have "a little" or "none." This includes a mere 13 percent that say they they're confidence is down to "none."

That poll was conducted June 24-27 with 1,630 adults and a margin of error of approximately 2.9 percent. 

Clearly these poll numbers aren't good for the Supreme Court, but a bigger point is whether or not that matters. The nine justices on the Court have lifetime appointments. They're unelected to begin with and thus don't have to run for re-election. Any claims from Democrats, such as from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), that certain conservative justices should be impeached over this decision are bogus. 

Justice Brett Kavanaugh spoke about their role as unelected judges in his concurrence, also pointing out how the Court made abortion a more democratic issue by returning it to the states to decide. 

The Court doesn't have to consider public opinion or public confidence when making decisions. In fact it's crucial that it doesn't. The Court must look to the constitution. 

Curt Levey, a constitutional law attorney and the president of the Committee for Justice, was abundantly clear in the insight he provided Townhall when it comes to the Court and public opinion. 

"The last thing we want is a Supreme Court that is looking for popular approval. The Constitution and the Supreme Court’s role in enforcing it are meant to be a check on majority opinion – for example, protecting unpopular speech, the rights of criminal defendants hated by the public, and the like. The Left is very focused right now on polls showing that people disagree with this or that Supreme Court decision," he said. 

Levey also pointed out how public opinion could have affected past decisions as well. "But if the Court looked to popular sentiment, it would not have ended segregation, legalized same-sex marriage, upheld ObamaCare or done many of the other things the Left called for. There is a more than 200 year history of the public sharply disagreeing with the Court’s decisions but following them nonetheless. Those who are calling for defiance of the Court’s recent decisions should heed that tradition," he continued. 

It's worth also mentioning that another takeaway from both the Yahoo! News poll as well as the NPR poll is that Democrats are now more favored over Republicans in a generic Congressional ballot race. In the former it's a 45-38 percent breakdown, while in the latter poll it's a 48-41 percent breakdown. 

It's worth pointing out, however, that Republicans still enjoy more support according to poll aggregates. FiveThirtyEight has Republicans at a 1.9 percent advantage of 44.6 percent to 42.7 percent, while RealClearPolitics has Republicans at a 2.8 percent advantage of 44.8 percent to 42.0 percent.

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