A new national Marquette Law Poll shows Americans trust the U.S. Supreme Court far more than the two other branches of government and don’t view it as an extremely partisan institution.
The poll, conducted Sept. 3-13 and released Monday, also shows Americans largely reject the idea of increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court and support term limits for the justices. Pollsters interviewed 1,423 adults nationwide with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
The figures showing general public support for the American judiciary come as the U.S. Supreme Court has increasingly been inserted into the fraught, high-profile political battles of the Trump era.
In recent years, Americans have witnessed the Republican U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, decline to take up former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the high court. They’ve also seen the highly contentious nomination battle surrounding Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused by a California professor of sexual assault while the two were in high school.
Seventy-three percent of respondents said McConnell’s decision not to hold hearings for Garland was wrong, a position held by most Republicans and Democrats.
As the nation’s high court has seen the confirmation of two of Republican President Donald Trump’s picks, Democrats have called for increasing the number of justices to thwart the perceived conservative lean of the court. But 57% of respondents opposed or strongly opposed such a measure, with most Republicans opposing the idea and Democrats evenly split on the issue.
A vast majority of the respondents, 72%, said they favor term limits for Supreme Court justices, who currently have lifetime appointments.
Despite the politics surrounding the U.S. Supreme Court, the high court and judicial branch garner the highest level of trust among Americans. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they trust the Supreme Court the most out of the branches of federal government. Twenty-two percent say they trust Congress the most, while 21% trust the presidency the most.
Fifty-four percent of Republicans have high confidence in the court, while 34% of Democrats do.
The poll shows most Americans don’t view the U.S. Supreme Court as highly partisan, with 50% of respondents describing the court as “moderate,” 33% describing it as “conservative” and 9% as “liberal.”
Most Republicans, 54%, view the court as moderate, while the plurality of Democrats, 42%, think the court is conservative.
Opinions of past cases
The poll shows Americans largely support major U.S. Supreme Court rulings in recent years — establishing a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry, and affirming that the Second Amendment protects a person’s right to bear arms unconnected with their service in a militia.
Fifty-six percent of respondents favor or strongly favor the same-sex marriage ruling, while 36% are opposed.
Sixty-seven percent of Americans support the Second Amendment ruling, while 24% are opposed.
Support, however, is mixed for the court’s decision this year that federal courts lack the authority to rule on cases involving political maps that favor one political party over another.
The poll shows opposition to the court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, which allows corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money to support or oppose political candidates. Seventy-five percent of respondents were opposed to that ruling in some form, while just 14% were in support.
Opinions of potential cases
Sixty-one percent of those surveyed oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, the court’s landmark ruling in 1973 protecting a woman’s right to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.
Fifty-two percent of Americans say they would oppose a possible U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature health care initiative, while 38% would support such a ruling.
Meanwhile, 53% of Americans would oppose a ruling deciding that a ban on semi-automatic rifles is unconstitutional.
Sixty-one percent of those surveyed say they would favor a ruling deciding that laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sex also apply to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity; and 57% would oppose a ruling allowing business owners to refuse service to gay customers for religious reasons.