Confidence in the Supreme Court sank to its lowest point in at least 50 years in 2022 in the wake of the Dobbs decision that led to state bans and other restrictions on abortion, a major trends survey shows.
The divide between Democrats and Republicans over support for abortion rights also was the largest ever in 2022, according to the General Social Survey. The long-running and widely respected survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago has been measuring confidence in the court since 1973, the same year that Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide.
In the 2022 survey, just 18% of Americans said they have a great deal of confidence in the court, down from 26% in 2021, and 36% said they had hardly any, up from 21%. Another 46% said they have “only some” confidence in the most recent survey.
The drastic change was concentrated among women, Democrats and those who say a woman should be able to get an abortion if she wants one “for any reason,” the survey shows.
Just 12% of women said they have a great deal of confidence in the court in 2022, down from 22% a year earlier and from 32% in 2018. Confidence among Democrats fell to 8% in 2022 from 25% a year earlier. And among those who think abortion should be available to a woman who wants one for any reason, confidence in the court dropped from 25% to 12%. [Continue reading…]
The scandal surrounding Justice Clarence Thomas has further eroded the already record-low public confidence in the Supreme Court. If Chief Justice John Roberts wonders how such a thing could have happened, he might start looking for answers within the cloistered walls of his own courtroom.
Over more than two decades, the Supreme Court has gutted laws aimed at fighting corruption and at limiting the ability of the powerful to enrich public officials in a position to advance their interests. As a result, today wealthy individuals and corporations may buy political access and influence with little fear of legal consequences, either for them or for the beneficiaries of their largess.
No wonder Justice Thomas apparently thought his behavior was no big deal.
He has been under fire for secretly accepting, from the Republican megadonor Harlan Crow, luxury vacations worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, a real estate deal (involving the home where his mother was living) and the payment of private school tuition for a grandnephew the justice was raising. Meanwhile, over the years, conservative groups with which Mr. Crow was affiliated filed amicus briefs in several matters before the Supreme Court.
That sounds like the very definition of corruption. But over the years, many justices — and not just conservatives — have championed a different definition.
The landmark case is the court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. A five-justice majority — including Justice Thomas — struck down decades-old restrictions on independent campaign expenditures by corporations, holding that they violated the companies’ free speech rights. It rejected the argument that such laws were necessary to prevent the damage to democracy that results from unbridled corporate spending and the undue influence it can create.
The government’s legitimate interest in fighting corruption, the court held, is limited to direct quid pro quo deals, in which a public official makes a specific commitment to act in exchange for something of value. The appearance of potentially improper influence or access is not enough.
In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens accused the majority of adopting a “crabbed view of corruption” that the court itself had rejected in an earlier case. He argued that Congress has a legitimate interest in limiting the effects of corporate money on politics: “Corruption operates along a spectrum, and the majority’s apparent belief that quid pro quo arrangements can be neatly demarcated from other improper influences does not accord with the theory or reality of politics.” [Continue reading…]