Analysis: Why the Supreme Court won’t see any backlash this time

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The Supreme Court handed down several key rulings last week that dismayed liberals. Chief among them was the court’s decision to prohibit colleges and universities from using race or ethnicity as a specific factor in admissions. The court also ruled that President Joe Biden’s student debt forgiveness plan was unconstitutional and that a Colorado web designer could refuse to create websites celebrating same-sex weddings over religious objections.

Unlike last year, when the Supreme Court upset liberals greatly by overturning Roe v. Wade, the justices’ big rulings this year are unlikely to cause a major reaction from the general public.

This is well reflected in the public votes. Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide, had become massively popular.

Just before the decision to overturn Roe leaked in May 2022, a Fox News poll found that 63% of registered voters opposed the measure, while 27% supported it. An ABC News/Washington Post poll placed the split at 54% wanting the court to uphold Roe and 28% wanting the decision overturned.

This majority of Americans who wanted abortion to be legal nationwide have maintained their stance since the Supreme Court officially overturned Roe in June 2022. Since then, abortion supporters have won all related measures placed on the ballot across the country, from deep blue states like California to ruby ​​red states like Kentucky.

California is an important state to note because voters there faced one Electoral measure 2020 consider the use of race, sex, or ethnicity in government institutions (such as education). A clear majority57% voted against allowing state and local entities to consider these factors in public education, employment and hiring decisions.

When a state that voted for Biden by nearly 30 points is against affirmative action, it shouldn’t be surprising that the nation as a whole is.

A Pew Research Center survey published last month found that 50% of Americans disapprove of certain colleges and universities taking race and ethnicity into account in admissions decisions to increase diversity. Only 33% approved the practice.

This Pew poll is not atypical. An ABC News/Ipsos survey conducted after the court ruled that his case showed that 52% of Americans approved of the decision, while 32% opposed it.

There were some surveys before the verdict shows even more opposition: 70% of Americans in a recent CBS News/YouGov poll indicated that the Supreme Court should not allow universities to consider race and ethnicity in admissions.

But perhaps the most interesting thing isn’t how many people are for or against considering race in college admissions. Rather, it’s how many people simply didn’t care enough to pay much attention to the affirmative action case before the Supreme Court.

When given the option explicitly, a majority (55%) said it in a May Marquette University Law School Survey that they had not heard enough to form an opinion on the case. (Those who had heard enough were against allowing colleges to use race in admissions.)

That’s quite a contrast from March 2022, when only 30% of Americans hadn’t heard enough to form an opinion about the court that could overturn Roe v. Wade, when asked the same question about Marquette but on the case of abortion. (A plurality of those who had heard enough did not want the court to overturn Roe.)

It’s hard for an issue to galvanize voters when they aren’t paying attention.

The same goes for Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan that the court blocked. A USA Today/Ipsos survey in April indicated that 52% of Americans were aware of the case and only 16% were very aware of it. (Those with student loans were more familiar at 71%, though that’s a pretty low percentage for something that could directly affect them.)

Possibly because of this lack of familiarity, the percentage of Americans who favor or oppose canceling certain student debts differs greatly depending on how the question is worded. When Marquette didn’t mention Biden or the government specifically in its May poll, a majority (63 percent) said they favored a pardon of up to $20,000. It was a much lower 47% than the Ipsos survey.

The polls that did identify the proposal as Biden’s plan tend to be on the same ground, with a divided public and a significant percentage of the unsure.

The ABC News/Ipsos poll showed 45 percent approved of the court overturning Biden’s student debt plan, and 40 percent disapproved. Around a sixth (16%) of the public was undecided.

That matches the poll before the court’s decision was announced. An NBC News poll from last year showed 43% saying Biden’s plan was a good idea compared to 44% who said it was a bad idea. Just over 10% had no opinion.

The USA Today/Ipsos poll found that 43 percent of Americans wanted the Supreme Court to allow the government’s student loan forgiveness plan to go forward, while 40 percent did not. Another 17% had no opinion.

(It should be noted that those with student debt were more likely to want government forgiveness in all of these polls, even though about 80% of Americans has no student loan debt.)

The public was also divided over the court ruling in favor of the Colorado web designer who refuses to make wedding websites for same-sex couples over religious objections. According to the ABC News/Ipsos poll, 43% of Americans agreed with the court’s decision, 42% disagreed and 14% were undecided.

There were limited polls on this case before the ruling, though none indicated mass opposition. A majority (60%) in a Pew poll that specifically mentioned “wedding websites” and “same-sex marriage” indicated that they believed business owners should be able to refuse services if they violated their religious beliefs or personal

The poll on Roe v. Wade looked nothing like this last year. There were no narrow divisions of opinion. People were consistently against overturning Roe, and they cared a lot about it. This led to a historically strong performance for the party in the White House in the 2022 midterm elections and a important reaction against the Supreme Court.

Current survey on affirmative action in college admissions, Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan and allowing people to withhold certain services from married LGBTQ couples if they believe it goes against their religion suggests that the courts’ opinions on these issues are unlikely to have a similar impact.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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