• Polling

Favorability of the Supreme Court Remains Underwater

Monday, November 20, 2023 By Maryann Cousens
Photo of the Supreme Court building.
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Poll: Supreme Court, Corruption, and Reforms

This Navigator Research report contains polling data tracking public opinion of the Supreme Court, including trust in the Court, perceptions of corruption within the Court, and support for reforms to the Court, including term limits and a code of conduct.

Nearly half of Americans continue to have negative views of the Supreme Court. 

Favorability of the Supreme Court remains underwater (net -6; 42 percent favorable – 48 percent unfavorable), which has been net negative in Navigator’s tracking since the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade last summer. Similarly, a majority of Americans say they don’t trust the Supreme Court to make the right decisions (net -6; 53 percent don’t trust – 47 percent trust), and a plurality say the court is too conservative (36 percent too conservative – 30 percent middle of the road – 16 percent too liberal).

  • Democrats are the most likely to have negative views of the Supreme Court (64 percent), and independents have a net negative view of the Court by 13 points(32 percent favorable – 45 percent unfavorable).
  • Three in five women do not trust the Supreme Court (net -18; 41 percent trust – 59 percent don’t trust), a net negative 26 point shift since April of 2022 when a majority of women said they trusted the Supreme Court to make the right decisions in the future (net +8; 54 percent trust – 46 percent do not trust). Men have significantly more trust in the Court (net +8; 54 percent trust – 46 percent don’t trust), though they too have had a net negative shift in the same time (from net +36 to net +8 now).
Bar graph of polling data from Navigator Research. Title: The Supreme Court Is Viewed Negatively by Nearly Half of Americans

More Americans trust Biden and Democrats to conduct oversight of the Supreme Court compared to Republicans.

41 percent say they trust Biden and Democrats more when it comes to issues of providing oversight for the Supreme Court, compared to 36 percent who trust Republicans. By a narrower margin, Americans also trust Biden and Democrats more to handle issues of corruption in government (net +3; 39 percent trust Democrats – 36 percent trust Republicans).

Majorities support term limits and implementing a code of conduct for the Supreme Court

Americans overwhelmingly support reforms to the Supreme Court, including term limits, investigations of ethics violations, and a new code of conduct for the court. Two in three say they support term limits for Supreme Court Justices (net +47; 66 percent support – 19 percent oppose), including majorities across party lines (76 percent of Democrats, 53 percent independents, and 58 percent Republicans). Nearly seven in ten also support investigations into ethics violations (net +51; 68 percent support – 17 percent oppose), and an identical majority support a new code of conduct for the Supreme Court that would implement stricter financial disclosure rules, and allow formal complaints against justices to be investigated by judges serving on lower courts (net +51; 68 percent support – 17 percent oppose). 

Support for implementing a new code of conduct for the Supreme Court extends across partisanship, including 82 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of independents, and 55 percent of Republicans. Additionally, 80 percent of college-educated women support term limits for Supreme Court justices, as do 67 percent of non-college educated men, 64 percent of non-college educated women, and 57 percent of college-educated men.

Bar graph of polling data from Navigator Research. Title: Nearly Seven in Ten Support Congressional Investigations of Ethics Violations by Supreme Court Justices
Bar graph of polling data from Navigator Research. Title: Bipartisan Majorities Support a Supreme Court Code of Ethics, Stricter Financial Disclosure Rules, and Formal Complaints

Those who are unfavorable to the Supreme Court call it “ultra-conservative,” “MAGA,” and “politicians in robes“ after messaging.

When considering a number of recent statements about the Supreme Court, Americans are most concerned by the refusal of certain justices to testify regarding corruption allegations and the actions of Clarence Thomas. Seven in ten are concerned by the statement that “several Justices on the Supreme Court have been accused of corruption and violations of their ethical code and refuse to testify before Congress on the issue” (70 percent, including 87 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents, and 51 percent of Republicans), and two in three are concerned by a statement that “Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is deeply corrupt and the Supreme Court is doing nothing about it, letting him take undisclosed luxury trips funded by a Republican donor, as well as receiving other expensive gifts, despite federal law requiring the disclosure of such gifts” (67 percent, including 87 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of independents, and 46 percent of Republicans). 

  • As concerns mount, one in five say they would describe the Supreme Court as “politicians in robes” (21 percent), “imbalanced” (18 percent), and “ultra-conservative” (18 percent).
  • Among Americans who have an unfavorable opinion of the Supreme Court, the phrases used to best describe the Court include “ultra-conservative Court” (28 percent), followed by a three-way tie at 25 percent between “MAGA Court” , “imbalanced Court”  and “politicians in robes”.
Bar graph of polling data from Navigator Research. Title: Those Unfavorable to SCOTUS Describe the Court as “Ultra- Conservative,” “MAGA,” “Imbalanced,” “Politicians in Robes”

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About The Study

Global Strategy Group conducted public opinion surveys among a sample of 1,000 registered voters from November 9-November 13, 2023. 105 additional interviews were conducted among Hispanic voters. 72 additional interviews were conducted among Asian American and Pacific Islander voters. 100 additional interviews were conducted among African American voters. 103 additional interviews were conducted among independent voters. The survey was conducted online, recruiting respondents from an opt-in online panel vendor. Respondents were verified against a voter file and special care was taken to ensure the demographic composition of our sample matched that of the national registered voter population across a variety of demographic variables.

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About Navigator

In a world where the news cycle is the length of a tweet, our leaders often lack the real-time public-sentiment analysis to shape the best approaches to talking about the issues that matter the most. Navigator is designed to act as a consistent, flexible, responsive tool to inform policy debates by conducting research and reliable guidance to inform allies, elected leaders, and the press. Navigator is a project led by pollsters from Global Strategy Group and GBAO along with an advisory committee, including: Andrea Purse, progressive strategist; Arkadi Gerney, The Hub Project; Joel Payne, The Hub Project; Christina Reynolds, EMILY’s List; Delvone Michael, Working Families; Felicia Wong, Roosevelt Institute; Mike Podhorzer, AFL-CIO; Jesse Ferguson, progressive strategist; Navin Nayak, Center for American Progress Action Fund; Stephanie Valencia, EquisLabs; and Melanie Newman, Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

For press inquiries contact: press@navigatorresearch.org