One in three Americans could consider abolishing or restricting the Supreme Court, according to a poll by Annenberg
Newswise – At the start of the Supreme Court’s fall period, a new poll by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center shows that more than a third of Americans are willing to abolish the Supreme Court or have its jurisdiction curtailed by Congress if the court should Should make decisions that they or Congress disagreed with.
The nationwide representative poll, conducted in September, found a sharp increase in the proportion of Americans willing to consider getting rid of or reins in the country’s highest court.
The poll found that 34% of Americans said “it might be better to abolish the court altogether” if it “started making a lot of decisions that most Americans disagreed with.” And 38% said that if Congress disagrees with the court’s decisions, “Congress should pass a law that says the Supreme Court can no longer rule on that matter or issue.”
“Respect for the independence of the judiciary seems to be eroding,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC). “The willingness of more than one in three Americans to suggest the idea of abolishing the court or taking its jurisdiction out of court is alarming.”
The results are in line with trends in other recent surveys that have raised similar questions. Gallup reported in September that the Supreme Court approval rating fell from 49% in July to 40%, a new low. A survey by the Marquette Law School in September found that the court’s approval rating fell from 60% in July to 49%.
The Annenberg Civics Knowledge Survey was conducted among 1,008 adults in the United States from September 7-12, 2021. The survey was conducted for APPC by SSRS, an independent research company, and has an error rate of ± 4.0 percentage points at a confidence level of 95%.
Further details and the questions can be found in the appendix.
A turbulent year
The results follow a controversial year of increasing media coverage of the powers, functions and prerogatives of the three branches of government. Events over the past year included a pandemic that saw lawmakers and courts grapple with health and safety restrictions; a controversial election and unsuccessful attempts to overturn the results in courts, including the Supreme Court; and Supreme Court rulings on controversial issues, including a ruling denying efforts to abolish the Affordable Care Act and the court’s refusal to review the Covid-19 vaccine mandate for Indiana University students and staff. Just before the September poll was conducted, the Supreme Court refused, 5-4, to block a Texas law restricting access to abortions.
In the past few months, four judges have issued public statements defending the independence of the court. One judge, Stephen Breyer, was nominated by a Democrat, President Bill Clinton, and three by Republicans: Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Clarence Thomas, nominated by President George HW Bush, and Amy Coney Barrett, nominated by President Donald Trump .
In September, following the Supreme Court ruling on Texas’ abortion law, Barrett performed in Kentucky to mark the 30th anniversary of the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville. “My goal today is to convince you that this court isn’t made up of a bunch of partisan hackers,” she said, according to the Louisville Courier Journal. “Philosophies of justice are not the same as political parties,” she added.
“Eliminate” the Supreme Court
Abolish the court: One-third of respondents (34%) agreed, “If the Supreme Court is making many judgments that most Americans disagree with, strongly or more likely,” it might be better to abolish the court altogether. That’s a significant increase from the last time we asked this question in 2019, when 20% agreed. From 2005 to 2018, the approval rates ranged between 17% and 23%.
Jurisdiction stripping: 38% agree with the statement “If Congress does not agree with the decisions of the Supreme Court, Congress should pass a law stating that the Supreme Court can no longer rule on this matter or issue”. That’s well above the 28% who agreed to the question in 2018. The responses from 2007 to 2013 were 22% versus 23%.
What motivates Supreme Court judges?
Personal and political views: When asked about individual Supreme Court justices, 59% of Americans said judges put their personal and political views aside and make decisions based on the constitution, law, and facts of the case. That is about as much as in 2020 (56%) and significantly higher than in 2019 (49%).
Party inclinations: Over a third of Americans (37%) say judges are more likely to make decisions that reflect the political leanings of the presidents they nominate – that judges appointed by Democratic presidents are more likely to make liberal decisions and judges appointed by Republicans appointed are more likely to make conservative decisions regardless of the Constitution, law, or the facts of the case. The response is roughly the same as for the past two years.
Citizenship and the Supreme Court
The freedoms protected by the First Amendment, conducted in August and prior to Constitution Day (17. That year, 56% of Americans named all three industries, a new high in the survey and well above the 51% in 2020 and 39% is in 2019.
However, the poll also found that a significant number of Americans misunderstood other basic facts about the government. While 61% knew that if the Supreme Court rules a 5-4 case, “the decision is the law and must be obeyed,” a third of respondents (34%) said the decision will either be sent back to the federal appeals court be decided or submitted to Congress for reconsideration.
An analysis of the Supreme Court survey data by Ken Winneg, Ph.D., executive director of survey research at APPC, finds that attending a high school citizenship course has a significant indirect effect on the protection of the Supreme Court. Using path modeling, we found that people who reported taking a citizenship course in high school were more likely to have higher levels of citizenship. Those who have a higher level of civic knowledge are more likely to disagree with statements calling for the abolition of the court or the disfranchisement of Congress by Congress.
This analysis is compatible with the findings of a 2008 article by Jamieson and Bruce Hardy in Daedalus magazine that found that high school citizenship predicted increased knowledge; more knowledge predicts increased trust in the judiciary; and with increasing confidence comes “an increased willingness to protect judges from impeachment because of referendums and the judiciary from deprived of jurisdiction. Confidence also strengthened the belief that the Supreme Court should be retained in the face of unpopular judgments. “
The complete data on the survey can be found in the appendix.
The Public Policy Center Annenberg was founded in 1993 to educate the public and policy makers about the role of communication in promoting public understanding of politics, science, and health at local, state, and federal levels.