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Californians hold dismal views of the US Supreme Court

By Dean Bonner

The 2023–24 term of the US Supreme Court began this week. On the docket are highly anticipated cases that could affect gun rights, abortion, gerrymandering, and social media regulation. Following several high-profile decisions during the court’s last session and greater scrutiny of judges’ conduct off the bench, Californians currently hold negative views of the court and offer mixed reviews of recent rulings.


Three in ten Californians approve of the US Supreme Court, while more than two in three disapprove, according to the September PPIC Statewide Survey. This marks a 7-point decline in approval from February and a 27-point decline from when PPIC previously asked this question in 2017. Californians are much less likely than adults nationwide to approve of the Supreme Court according to a recent Marquette Law School survey (43% approve, 57% disapprove).


Today, partisans are deeply divided on approval of the Supreme Court, with about six in ten Republicans approving compared to roughly three in ten independents and two in ten Democrats. Approval is low across regions but is highest in the Central Valley (34%) and lowest in the San Francisco Bay Area (24%). Across demographic groups, 35% or fewer approve of the court. Notably, there is a gender gap in approval, with men 10 points more likely than women to approve.


Most Californians disapprove of the Supreme Court

The September survey also asked about three Supreme Court decisions from last term. About one in four approve of the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade (27% each of adults and likely voters), about four in ten or more approve of denying services to same-sex customers seeking a wedding website (39% adults, 43% likely voters), and about half approve of restricting the use of race as a factor in college admissions (48% adults, 52% likely voters).

Partisans are deeply divided on all three of these rulings. There is a 52-point gap between Republicans (61%) and Democrats (9%) regarding the overturning of Roe v. Wade; a 53-point gap when it comes to denying services to same-sex customers seeking a wedding website (76% Republicans, 23% Democrats); and a 48-point margin in restricting the use of race as a factor in college admissions (81% Republicans, 33% Democrats). Among independents, 28% approve of overturning Roe v. Wade, 47% approve of the decision to deny services to same-sex customers seeking a wedding website, and 59% approve of restricting the use of race as a factor in college admissions.

For the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Latinos are the most likely to approve across racial/ethnic groups (36%), while Asian Americans are the least likely to approve (18%). On denying services to same-sex customers seeking a wedding website, Californians across racial/ethnic groups hold similar opinions. Californians are most divided on the decision restricting the use of race as a factor in college admissions. Across racial/ethnic groups, whites are the most approving (55%) while African Americans are the least approving (35%). Men are more likely than women to approve of all three of these Supreme Court decisions. Californians’ views of the current Supreme Court—which has six justices who were appointed by Republican presidents—are not too surprising given Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly two to one in the state. Our February survey found that about half of Californians (52%) thought the court was too conservative (30% about right, 15% too liberal). As the Supreme Court takes up new cases—and attempts to address ethics concerns—the PPIC Statewide Survey will continue to gauge Californians’ opinions of the high court.


Fewer than half approve of three recent Supreme Court decisions % approving

Californians’ views of the current Supreme Court—which has six justices who were appointed by Republican presidents—are not too surprising given Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly two to one in the state. Our February survey found that about half of Californians (52%) thought the court was too conservative (30% about right, 15% too liberal). As the Supreme Court takes up new cases—and attempts to address ethics concerns—the PPIC Statewide Survey will continue to gauge Californians’ opinions of the high court.

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