MU Poll: SCOTUS approval significantly rebounds since Dobbs decision

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 9:48 AM CST
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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WMTV) – A new Marquette Law School poll shows the U.S. Supreme Court’s approval rating significantly rebounding since last summer when it fell sharply in the wake of the decision to overturn previous decisions that guaranteed a right to an abortion. While the high court remains underwater, with a -3 net approval rating, that number is much lower than the net -23 difference in Marquette’s first survey after the Dobbs decision.

This latest poll finds Americans nearly split on their opinion of the court, with 47% saying they approve of how the court is doing its job and 53% less satisfied. Almost exactly six months ago, more than six in ten Americans (61%) told pollsters they disapproved of how the justices were doing, versus the 38% who were happy with their performance.

Beyond the controversial decision to overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling, the past half-year also saw the Supreme Court welcome its newest justice: Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was sworn into office on June 30 of last year.

Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson stands as she and members of the Supreme Court pose...
Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson stands as she and members of the Supreme Court pose for a new group portrait following her addition, at the Supreme Court building in Washington, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022.(J. Scott Applewhite | AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Taking party affiliation into account, Republicans remain much more satisfied with the Court, in which conservatives currently hold a 6-3 majority. As it stands, roughly two-thirds of those who identify with the GOP are happy with the justices’ performances. Like both Democrats and independents, though, that number is down notably from the 80% approval rating they gave in Sept. 2020. However, the 13-point drop since then is far less than the other two groups, which have seen declines of more than 20 percent.

Republican support did crater in Marquette’s first poll after September 2020, plummeting to 57% in July 2021. A month before that survey the justices once again upheld a challenge to the Affordable Care Act. Since then, it has climbed into the upper-60s, peaking at 71% right before the Dobbs decision.

On the left side of the aisle, Democratic support nudged up to 59% after the Obamacare verdict, which has been the highwater mark for the court since Sept. 2020. Only once since then, March 2022, has more than half of Democrats approved of the job the Court is doing. Just two months later, though, the 52% approval rating was cut in half. Only a week after a draft of the Dobbs decision leaked, indicating the court was about to overturn the then-nearly 50-year-old Roe verdict, its approval rating went from just over half to just over a quarter (28%) of Democrats. Since then, the approval rating has ticked up and sat at 35% in that last poll.

While Americans’ opinion of the high court as a whole has improved since Dobbs was decided, their judgement on the verdict itself has barely budged. In November, MU pollsters found a third of voters approved of the ruling versus two-thirds who did not. This month, they found only a two-point swing on each side, reporting a 35-64% split.

The poll also found Americans have detected a notable rightward shift in the justices’ rulings. In 2019, prior to Justice Amy Coney Barrett replacing the liberal powerhouse Ruth Bader Ginsburg, half of respondents considered the court to be moderate, while another 38% thought the justices broke right. By this January, the number who considered the court ‘very conservative’ or ‘somewhat conservative’ had risen to 57% and those who put the court in the moderate column fell below a third. In all cases, those who believe the court leans left has hovered around the 10% mark.

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