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Has the Supreme Court become a political institution?
Americans are losing faith in the Supreme Court. We once trusted our most important legal institution to make decisions that struck a balance between the interests of the wealthy and powerful, and the well-being of everyday Americans.
A new poll from Alliance for Justice shows that on case after case, the American public believes the Roberts Court has let a political agenda drive its pro-corporate decisions.
Our poll found that only 41% of Americans approve of the job the Supreme Court is doing – a dangerously low number for an institution whose decisions carry enormous weight, and whose legacy is built on integrity and honesty. Furthermore, clear majorities of Americans disapprove of the Court’s handling of several important cases.
See below for key findings from the poll, or download our polling memo for more detailed information.
VOTERS BELIEVE THE COURT SIDES WITH CORPORATIONS OVER INDIVIDUALS
In our poll, we found that Americans believe the Supreme Court sides with corporations more often than with individuals; they would prefer that the Court strike a balance.
VOTERS DISAPPROVE OF DECISIONS IN CASES PITTING INDIVIDUALS AGAINST POWERFUL INTERESTS
In many of the Supreme Court's recent decisions, Americans saw the Court creating new rights for corporations, and damaging or stripping away the rights of the individuals who have been harmed by those corporations. Our poll found that many Americans had very unfavorable opinions of some of the highest-profile decisions:
AMERICANS WANT A COURT THAT PROTECTS INDIVIDUALS
When asked what changes the Supreme Court should make, a majority said that the Court should do more to protect the rights of ordinary people.
VOTERS BELIEVE POLITICS INFLUENCES COURT DECISIONS
The Supreme Court is supposed to put the Constitution and the law ahead of any political agenda. Our survey found that Americans have lost confidence in the Court's ability to do so. A majority felt that the Court's decisions are driven by a political agenda.
LOW APPROVAL UNDERMINES AUTHORITY
Overall, Americans' attitudes toward the Supreme Court paint a bleak picture. No longer trusted to follow the law and protect the Constitution against the hot-button politics of the moment, the Supreme Court is now seen favorably by a minority of Americans.
In this age of ceaseless political polling, it's tempting to view those numbers as one would view a poll on a politician's approval rating. But Supreme Court justices aren't supposed to be politicians. They are entrusted with lifetime appointments precisely to insulate them from the politics of the two elected branches of government.
The AFJ findings echo other national polling undertaken in the past decade that has consistently shown a significant erosion of approval of the institution, threatening to undermine respect for the Court’s integrity, and, hence, its authority. The poll also indicates that public perceptions may be further affected by a close decision on the health care case if the justices divide strictly along ideological lines.
JOIN THE MOVEMENT.
AFJ analyzes current and upcoming cases, as well as historical trends. We sound the alarm against the 1% Court, and we mobilize everyday Americans to speak out and demand justice for all Americans... not just the wealthy and powerful.