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More than 60% of Americans say the Supreme Court is motivated by politics, while just 32% believe they rule based on law: poll

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Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett and Chief Justice John Roberts walk down the steps of the west side of the Supreme Court following her investiture ceremony on October 01, 2021.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett and Chief Justice John Roberts walk down the steps of the west side of the Supreme Court following her investiture ceremony on October 01, 2021.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • 61% of Americans say the Supreme Court is motivated mainly by politics, a Quinnipiac poll found.

  • 67% of Democrats said so, while 62% of independents and 56% of Republicans agreed.

  • Just 32% of Americans believe the country's highest legal body is motivated by the law.

A new Quinnipiac poll released on Friday found that Americans have a dim view of the nation's highest judicial body. More than 6 in 10 of respondents said the Supreme Court is motivated primarily by politics, whereas only 32% said it's motivated by the law.

That's a 6-percentage point increase from two years ago, when the same polling firm found that 55% of respondents said they thought the court was driven by politics.

The court, which saw three justices nominated and confirmed by former President Donald Trump, now holds a 6-3 conservative majority. Even so, Republicans largely agree with their Democrats on the state of the court; 56% of Republicans said the court is driven mostly by politics. 62% of independent voters, for their part, said the same thing, and 67% of Democrats also said so.

In September, approval for the court reached an all-time low of 37%. And that was a 15-point drop from July 2020, when 52% of Americans said they approved of the way the court was handling its job.

That poll came in the wake of a controversial ruling on abortion, where a majority of the court's conservative justices declined to block a new Texas law that effectively bans abortion in after six weeks of pregnancy and outsources its enforcement to fellow citizens.

As negative impressions of the court grow, some justices have sought to push back on the criticism in an attempt to restore faith in the institution.

The latest Trump appointee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, spoke at the McConnell Center in Louisville, Kentucky in September, while sharing a stage with Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, to say that the court "is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks."

Justice Stephen Breyer, a liberal, recently published a new book and gave several news interviews in which he argues that the Supreme Court remains a nonpartisan institution.

The recent poll also comes amid a highly contentious term in which the justices will decide on a number of high-profile cases, including a challenge to the 1973 landmark decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.

That case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, will be argued on December 1. A decision will come down by next June.

The Quinnipiac University poll, conducted from November 11 through 15, included 1,378 adults nationwide and had a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points.

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