A group of abortion rights protesters, with one holding a giant photo cutout of the face of Samuel Alito

Everyone Officially Hates the Supreme Court

According to a new poll from NBC News/Hart Research, everyone thinks the U.S. Supreme Court is garbage.

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OK, technically not everyone thinks that, but the court’s approval rating is currently at a historic low. In fact, it’s the first time in the 30-year history of this poll that the institution’s rating is net-negative, meaning more people actively disapprove of the court than approve. (A large chunk of responders replied “neutral,” although that number is also lower than it’s ever been.)

This poll shows the court’s approval rating sitting at 35% positive, 42% negative among registered voters. And 37% said they had little or no confidence in the court, with only 27% having a great deal or quite a lot of confidence.

“That’s a reversal from our poll in 2019, when 39% said they had high confidence, while 17% had low confidence,” writes NBC News.

They deserve this.

It can’t be surprising to anyone that the Supreme Court’s approval rating plummeted this year. Obviously, the big turning point had to have been Dobbs v. Jackson WHO, which robbed Americans of our constitutional right to safe and legal abortion—a move that has proven to be wildly unpopular, even in overwhelmingly red states.

But Dobbs wasn’t the only terrible ruling handed down this year. The court also essentially made concealed carry a constitutional right in every state (also laying the groundwork to ban basically all forms of gun control), repeatedly decimated separations between church and state, legalized political bribery, and refused to allow a Biden policy limiting ICE immigration arrests to be implemented, just to name a few—plus, the wording in the Dobbs decision made it clear that a number of other basic civil rights are on the line, from LGBTQ+ marriage and relationships to contraception.

On top of the actual decisions, the conservative justices have been acting extra repugnantly in recent months. They’ve mocked and condemned peaceful protests, getting conservative pundits and politicians riled up over protesters gathering outside their homes or daring to interrupt Brett Kavanaugh’s dinner. Samuel Alito literally laughed at those devastated by Dobbs. Clarence Thomas went full “us vs. them” in talking about liberal Americans—plus there’s that whole deal with his wife trying to help overthrow the government. Oh, and don’t forget about how the misogynistic religious cult that one of those justices was a part of was just revealed to be so much worse than we knew.

Does the Supreme Court’s legitimacy matter?

On the one hand, maybe the Supreme Court doesn’t care about our approval. After all, these unelected justices have lifetime appointments. What does it matter if people hate them if we can’t fire them?

On the other hand, as the New York Times put it in the days following the Dobbs decision, “All the Supreme Court really has to go on is the public’s acceptance of its rulings as legitimate.” To this end, “Once you lose that, it’s not really clear what the stopping point is,” one law professor told the paper, calling the loss of SCOTUS’ legitimacy “a fundamental threat to society.”

“Fundamental to its place in American society is the notion that the justices are more than just politicians in robes,” reads a Washington Post op-ed from the same time. “In much of the country, this image will now be shattered. So, too, will be Americans’ expectations that they can count on any court ruling to remain the durable law of the land. We are entering a new era of distrust and volatility in the legal system in a country that needs stability in its governmental institutions, rather than more venom and tumult.”

In her scathing, bleak dissent to the Dobbs decision, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, blisteringly, “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception, that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?”

I think we can confidently say the answer to that question is a resounding no.

(via NBC News, image: Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.