1 in 3 Americans say they’re open to abolishing or limiting the Supreme Court

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — A surprisingly significant portion of Americans would like to see the Supreme Court become the “Subordinate Court,” according to new research. A recent poll conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania finds over a third of Americans “might be willing” to abolish the Supreme Court altogether or at least permit Congress to limit its power if it were to issue rulings either they or Congress disagree with.

Consisting of 1,008 participants, this research indicates a notable increase in the number of Americans are willing to consider doing away with or at least reducing the power of the nation’s highest court.

More specifically, the survey finds 34 percent of respondents told researchers “it might be better to do away with the court altogether” if it “started making a lot of rulings that most Americans disagreed with.” Another 38 percent believe that if Congress disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decisions, “Congress should pass legislation saying the Supreme Court can no longer rule on that issue or topic.”

“Respect for judicial independence appears to be eroding,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC), in a university release. “The willingness of more than 1 in 3 Americans to entertain the idea of abolishing the court or stripping jurisdiction from it is alarming.”

Faith in the courts falling?

These findings, while no doubt surprising, are indicative of a larger trend appearing in other recent surveys. Gallup reports the Supreme Court’s approval rating in September 2021 dipped to a new low of 40 percent after coming in at 49 percent in July 2021.

These findings of course come on the heels of a tumultuous year in U.S. politics. Between the ongoing pandemic, the 2020 election and its aftermath, and a number of controversial Supreme Court rulings, it’s been a year like no other. For example, just before researchers conducted this survey in September, the Supreme Court opted not to block a Texas law restricting abortion access.

For reference on how far sentiments toward the Supreme Court have fallen over the past year, only 20 percent of respondents shared similar views on “abolishing or weakening” the Supreme Court in the 2019 version of this poll. Moreover, between 2005 and 2018, those who agreed with the idea of removing the Supreme Court if it were to start making unpopular decisions stayed largely consistent, only varying between 17 and 23 percent.

Respondents were also asked about individual Supreme Court justices. Most (59%) say that the justices work in an impartial manner, setting aside their personal and political views to make rulings based on the law, Constitution, etc. Meanwhile, however, 37 percent think that most justices will fall in line with the beliefs of the President who appointed them. For example, a justice nominated by a Democratic president would be more likely to make a liberal ruling while justices nominated by Republicans may be more likely to make conservative rulings.

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