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Less Than a Third of Voters View the Supreme Court Positively, a New Low

Positive ratings of the Supreme Court are at their lowest point since NBC News began measuring public sentiment about the court in 1992, according to the latest national NBC News poll. 

According to the survey, which was released Sunday, the Supreme Court’s public image stands at 31% positive and 40% negative among registered voters. There has been a significant decline in the court’s image in recent decades, but it’s been particularly sharp in the last year, after the court issued a high-profile ruling overturning a federal right to abortion.  

In Jan. 2021, 44% said they felt positively about the court, 19% said they felt negatively, and 35% felt neutral. In May 2022, after a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was reported by Politico, public sentiment dropped, with the public giving the Court a 36% positive mark and a 35% negative mark. A few months later, after the abortion ruling, negative sentiment about the court rose to 42%, while positive sentiment remained largely stagnant at 35%. 

The NBC News poll is conducted by a bipartisan group of pollsters, Hart Research and Public Opinion Strategies.   

Overall, public sentiment has dropped significantly over the years. In May of 1992,  the poll found the Court with a 42% positive rating and a 26% negative rating. That poll was taken after the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, another abortion case that broadly upheld Roe but also allowed for some restrictions on abortion in the second and third trimester.

Comparing today’s ratings to a 1992 Supreme Court era, polls show an 11% decrease in positive ratings and a 14% increase in negative ratings.  

The NBC poll also found deep shifts along party lines in the last decade.  

In 2015, shortly after the nationwide legalization of gay marriage in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, a peak of 54% of Democrats maintained a positive image of the Supreme Court. But now, just 14% of Democrats rate the court positively, a stark 40-point difference. 

On the other hand, Court’s image in the eyes of Republicans hit a low after the 2015 same-sex marriage decision, but its image among those voters sharply rose just a few years later, and now sits at 48%.