Gallup Poll - Gov't 06302104

There was time when a majority of Americans were confident in their Supreme Court, but those positive feelings have been eroding in the last quarter of a century so that just 30% now say they have confidence in the institution, according to a Gallup poll.

Michael Muskal
June 30, 2014

The poll, released Monday, had good news and bad news for the high court, a unique institution that serves as a check and balance in the United States. People have more confidence in the court than in any other arm of government, but that may not be saying that much when confidence in the presidency stands at 29% and in the Congress at 7%.

Judges on the Supreme Court are appointed for life and, unlike members of Congress or the president, do not have go through the rigors of elections. But as national attitudes change on controversial issues including abortion, racial segregation and same-sex marriage, so too does the legal system’s response. The Supreme Court may not follow polls, but changing attitudes can have an impact.

Further, when the high court rules on key issues it creates space for more politics. For example, the tough decisions on its last day — on Hobby Lobby’s right to deny women contraception and limiting the ability of unions to collect fees from reluctant public employees — are already echoing through the political sphere.

While bemoaning the Hobby Lobby ruling, top Democrats have already pushed it into the arms of the “GOP’s war on women,” a frequent meme by Democrats. Both conservatives, who generally support the court’s rulings in both cases, and liberals are sure to use the issues when raising money for this year’s congressional elections and the 2016 presidential cycle.

The Gallup poll is based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,027 adults conducted from June 5 to June 8 . It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Since 1991, the first year Gallup began asking regularly about all three branches of government, the Supreme Court and the presidency have alternated as the most trusted branch, while Congress has been the laggard.

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