Americans’ Beliefs About Supreme Court Politicization Differ Widely by Political Affiliation

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Americans’ views on the Supreme Court’s most recent decisions, from restricting the use of race-based affirmative action in higher education to blocking student loan forgiveness and more, varied widely in function of political affiliation.

New polling by ABC News/Ipsos shows Americans’ responses to the Supreme Court have been skewed, with the percentage of Republicans and independents who believe the court’s decisions are driven by politics largely unchanged. Meanwhile, Democrats increasingly say they believe judges make judgments based on their political views rather than the law. While only a third of Republicans and half of independents say the court rules primarily on the basis of partisan political views, three-quarters of Democrats now hold that view, up 20 percentage points from a year ago and half when asked. asked in a January 2022 ABC News/Ipsos poll.

ABC News sought out respondents to gain a deeper understanding of their views. Follow-up interviews with respondents indicate a high level of polarization, while thinking within partisan groups is somewhat diverse. Members of both parties have different perceptions about the degree of politicization of the court, whether it is a matter of concern or not, and what should be done about it. All respondents asked to be identified by name only, unless otherwise noted.


A strong majority of Republicans, about two-thirds, according to the ABC News/Ipsos poll, believe Supreme Court justices make their decisions based on the law, not politics.

Asha Urban, who spoke to ABC News at a Trump rally in South Carolina earlier this month, is among that group, saying the justices are focused on the law.

“Govern the law and give back to the states other things that should be governed in the states,” he said.

Urban sees the appointment of a trio of Supreme Court justices as a hallmark of former President Donald Trump’s tenure and said he believes Trump’s appointed justices are correcting a legacy of politicized rulings before his presidency.

“He campaigned to bring in conservative judges who were constitutionalists, not politicians,” he said. “I think that’s what most of us want.”

Michael, a Republican from South Carolina, takes a different view. He’s one of about a third of Republicans who said Supreme Court justices rule based on their personal political views, and he was surprised to learn that was a more common belief across the aisle.

“I’m worried that I might lean toward the Democrats,” he joked.

He agrees with recent court decisions on affirmative action and student loans. But the 74-year-old is concerned that the court’s decision-making could become downright political in the future, a trend he sees as related to the polarization of the country at large.

“I’m concerned that they’re not following the law,” he said. “They are not chosen. When they are only served by a president… and it’s for life, we have no choice. You can’t vote them out.”

Dwight Edward Allen, a 47-year-old Kentucky man who describes himself as “more conservative than Republican,” expressed concern about the court’s direction. While he believes the justices make the right legal decisions most of the time, including their recent ruling on student loans, he said the court is becoming more political and, specifically, is “going backwards.”

“That’s fine if you’re white or privileged, but if you’re just trying to get by, it’s not,” he said.


After a year of several controversial rulings, many Democrats perceive the Supreme Court as an increasingly politicized institution, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll.

Natalie is one such Democrat concerned about partisanship on the highest court. He said his experience as a Filipino immigrant instilled in him a deep appreciation for nonpartisan judicial systems and that he is concerned about what he perceives as the weakening of American democracy in general.

“I grew up under martial law in the Philippines, so I know what it’s like to live under a dictatorship. I know what it’s like when the Supreme Court is influenced by the politicians in power,” he said.

Natalie cited recent Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action, President Joe Biden’s student loan debt policy, and abortion as evidence that the court is not making decisions strictly on the basis of the law.

“Growing up in a country where we’ve always respected the democratic principles of the United States and seeing how it’s being eroded right now, it worries me,” he added.

Vicki, another Democrat concerned about partisanship on the court, also says she has seen an increase in the influence of politics on the court over the past year.

“I think they’re more partisan now than they’ve been historically,” he shared.

Vicki stressed that the courts should be true to the letter of the law and not be beholden to politicians or parties, something she said has been lacking in recent months.

“I think idealistically they should govern based on what’s written in the Constitution, versus what the party behind the president who appointed them might support,” he said.


According to the ABC News/Ipsos poll, independents are about evenly split on whether the court rules primarily on the basis of the law.

Greg Freeman, an independent, said that while current rulings by Supreme Court justices contain partisan bias, they are reasonable interpretations of the law.

“Even though it seems like what they’re doing right now is partisan, … I think we’re just seeing the court’s decisions very much reflect the presidents who appointed them,” he said.

This partisanship does not erode Freeman’s confidence in the Court. Instead, the 49-year-old South Carolinian, who says he has deep concerns about both political parties, sees it as part of the natural power struggles that take place within a democracy.

“When certain issues were interpreted differently in previous Supreme Court decisions, conservatives criticized a ‘liberal’ court. Now that the opposite is arguably true, liberals face an overwhelmingly conservative court,” Freeman wrote in an email to ABC News. “Partisanship on the Court is nothing new and plays a significant role in how voters elect presidents. Always have, always will.”

Dan, another independent from California, agreed with Freeman’s diagnosis, but added that the trend worries him. A self-described swing voter, he declined to share his views on specific cases, but said he senses the court has become more political over the past decade.

“I think the current court is a little bit biased. … I worry about the current Supreme Court reversing long-term positions,” he said. “Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have said that.”

Dan said he would not support expanding the number of judges on the court, a solution some Democratic lawmakers have proposed, if the judges were still politically appointed. However, he expressed broad support for reforming the court to make it less partisan, including establishing term limits for Supreme Court justices.

“I think they should explore those options,” Dan said.

METHODOLOGY: This ABC News/Ipsos survey was conducted using the Ipsos Public Affairs® KnowledgePanel® from June 30 to July 1, 2023, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 937 Northern adults -Americans with oversamples of black, Hispanic, and Asian respondents weighted by their correct proportions in the general population. The results have a margin of sampling error of 3.6 points, including the design effect. Party splits are 26-25-41 percent, Democrats-Republicans-Independents. See survey results and details on methodology here.

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