Americans want U.S. Supreme Court reform but are likely to vote against it

Supreme Court

Two-thirds of Americans want court reform in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which overturned a half-century of abortion rights that were guaranteed under the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

At the same time, public opinion surveys show a strong chance that Republicans are leading in the midterm elections, even in races featuring election deniers who pledge to cheat in the next presidential contest and GOP senators who corrupted the judicial confirmation process.

“We’re in somewhat uncharted territory here,” says Carolyn Shapiro, professor of law at ITT Chicago-Kent College of Law. “For the first time in a very long time, maybe ever, there is increasing public appetite for making changes to the court, like adding seats and/or imposing term limits.”

Public approval of the U.S. Supreme Court hit a new low last month, with disapproval of the high court hitting its highest mark since Gallup started keeping track in 2000.

The pollster found that 53% of people disapprove of the job the Supreme Court is doing. Forty percent of people polled describe the court as being “about right” ideologically, while 37% say the court is “too conservative.”

The results of the Gallup poll, conducted September 1-17, come about a year after 58% of Americans said they approved of the Supreme Court, and a couple of months after the high court struck Roe down.

Gallup also reports that the political environment for the 2022 midterm elections should work to the benefit of the Republican Party, with all national mood indicators similar to, if not worse than, what they have been in other years when the incumbent party fared poorly in midterms.

Heading into Election Day, 40% of Americans approve of the job Joe Biden is doing as president, 17% are satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S., 49% describe the health of the economy as poor (compared with 14% saying it is excellent or good), and 21% approve of the job the Democratically led Congress is doing.

Current ratings of the U.S. economy and national satisfaction are the lowest Gallup has measured at the time of a midterm election over the life of these polling trends, starting in 1994 and 1982, respectively. Congressional and presidential job approval are near their historical low marks.

The political peril of a party led by an unpopular president is apparent in the fact that the incumbent president’s party has lost seats in every midterm election when his approval rating has been below 50%. Seat losses in the House of Representatives for unpopular presidents’ parties have averaged 37 since 1946.

Biden’s 40% job approval rating is higher than only one other recent president at the time of a midterm election — George W. Bush in 2006, at 38%. Further back in history, Harry Truman also had sub-40% approval ratings in both of his midterm elections, in 1946 (33%) and 1950 (39%).

In other recent midterm years — 2010, 2014 and 2018 — between 41% and 45% of Americans approved of the job the president was doing, with seat losses ranging from 13 to 63 in those years.

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