Public’s Views of Supreme Court Turned More Negative Before News of Breyer’s Retirement

Feb 02, 2022
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The U.S. Supreme Court, which typically attracts only modest attention from the American public, is about to occupy the national spotlight with the possibility of a history-making change among the court's justices and a series of highly anticipated rulings on matters ranging from abortion to gun policy.

The court enters this pivotal period with its public image as negative as it has been in many years, as Democrats – especially liberal Democrats – increasingly express unfavorable opinions of the court.

In a national survey by Pew Research Center, 54% of U.S. adults say they have a favorable opinion of the Supreme Court while 44% have an unfavorable view. The survey was conducted before Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement from the court and President Joe Biden reiterated his pledge to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court to replace Breyer.

Over the past three years, the share of adults with a favorable view of the court has declined 15 percentage points, according to the new survey, conducted Jan. 10-17 among 5,128 adults on the Center's American Trends Panel. Looking back further, current views of the court are among the least positive in surveys dating back nearly four decades.