Fewer than half of U.S. adults trust the Supreme Court, the lowest share since Morning Consult started tracking the question in polls, as the House Judiciary Committee moves forward with a bill to impose ethical reforms at the court.
Morning Consult’s weekly tracking poll found 49% of U.S. adults had trust in the Supreme Court as of May 8, down from 52% on May 2 and 57% on April 23.
That’s the lowest share since Morning Consult started tracking the question in October 2020.
While trust dropped among Democrats and Independents (by nine points and six points, respectively), Republicans’ trust in the court actually went up from 57% on May 2 to 64% now.
The polling comes after Politico leaked a draft opinion on May 2 showing a majority of justices favor overturning Roe and letting states ban abortion, which has led to protests at justices’ homes and the Senate passing legislation increasing justices’ security.
It also comes as the court has come under more ethical scrutiny, after text messages between Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife Ginni Thomas and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows were reported in which Ginni advocated for overturning the 2020 election results.
The House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of legislation Wednesday night that would address some of those concerns by establishing a code of conduct for Supreme Court justices and creating more requirements around when justices should recuse themselves from cases.
73%. That’s the share of voters in a recent Morning Consult/Politico poll who strongly or somewhat support binding Supreme Court justices to a code of ethics, as the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal and Transparency Act would do. Supreme Court justices are not bound by the same code of conduct that governs other federal judges.
What To Watch For
The Supreme Court ethics bill will now go to the full House, and a companion bill in the Senate was introduced Wednesday—though it’s unlikely to garner the 60 votes needed to pass. If enacted, the bill would impose such reforms on the court as requiring justices to recuse if a party in a case supported their confirmation or gave them income or gifts; requiring all parties who appear before the court or submit briefs to disclose any ties they have to justices; and making an explanation of justices’ recusal decisions available online. The court’s final decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the abortion case that could overturn Roe, is expected likely in June, before the court’s term ends.
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee strongly opposed moving forward with the Supreme Court ethics bill, painting it as a partisan reaction to the news of Roe being potentially soon overturned. The bill is “about what’s happening at the court right now,” Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) said during Wednesday’s hearing, as quoted by Bloomberg, calling it an attempt by Democrats to “intimidate” justices and “usurp judicial independence” in order to further abortion rights and the “radical progressive agenda.”
While polling suggests Americans have been wary for months that the 6-3 conservative court is too politicized, Ginni Thomas’ text messages and the leaked abortion draft have thrown the issue into high relief. Ginni Thomas’ messages—in which she told Meadows to “release the Kraken and save us from the left taking America down”—were obtained by the House January 6 Committee after Clarence Thomas voted against other documents being released to the committee, raising concerns about his impartiality. The leaked abortion opinion, which declares the 1973 Roe decision “egregiously wrong,” has also inflamed fears about the court’s conservative tilt. The fact the decision was leaked ahead of time—a rarity for the court—has also been criticized for hurting the court’s image as being above partisan politics, which it had previously managed to hold onto by keeping its deliberations closely held and out of the press.
Tracking Trust in U.S. Institutions (Morning Consult)
Supreme Court Ethics Code Mandate Advances in House (Bloomberg Law)
Jan. 6 Committee Reportedly Plans To Ask Ginni Thomas To Testify About 2020 Election Texts (Forbes)
Supreme Court Majority Reportedly Still Supports Overturning Roe V. Wade (Forbes)