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The Supreme Court Is Unpopular. But Do Americans Want Change?

Many Americans are dissatisfied with the Supreme Court, but there are very few ways to rein in the justices. The easiest option — expanding the court — has been unpopular for years, but in the wake of the court’s controversial decisions on guns and abortion, have Americans changed their minds?


The current Supreme Court is really, really, really conservative. Over just a week at the end of June, the Republican-appointed justices overturned the constitutional right to abortion, dramatically expanded gun rights, dealt a big blow to church-state separation, made it easier for religious schools to get public funding and limited the EPA’s ability to issue broad regulations to fight climate change.

Those have been long-standing conservative priorities. And the justices delivered on all of them.

So what now? We talk about the repercussions of all these cases in other videos, but taken together, the opinions are clearly changing the way Americans think about the court. The Supreme Court’s approval fell after a draft version of the opinion overturning abortion rights leaked in May. That hasn’t changed since the Supreme Court’s term ended — in fact, recent polls tracked by FiveThirtyEight show that over half of Americans disapprove of what the court is doing.

Americans are losing faith in the Supreme Court. But do they actually want to do something about it?

For years, progressives have been pushing to increase the size of the Supreme Court to counter the court’s conservative tilt. They’ve focused on court-packing over other forms of court reform — like term limits — because adding justices is clearly within Congress’s power. The Constitution doesn’t say anything about how big the Supreme Court should be, and Congress has added or taken away justices in the past. Term limits, on the other hand, might actually be unconstitutional.

The problem for court-reform advocates is that while term limits are popular, adding justices to the court? Not so much. A poll conducted just after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade found that 54 percent of Americans do not want more justices added to the court, while 34 percent are in favor. Though, of course, there is a pretty big partisan split.

So, it’s possible we could hear more talk of court-packing on the left — since the idea of adding more justices to the court is actually popular among Democrats. But one very important person — President Joe Biden — recently confirmed that he’s still not in favor of this. Even though Americans may be increasingly upset with the Supreme Court, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be expanded anytime soon.

Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux is a senior editor and senior reporter for FiveThirtyEight.

Michael Tabb is a former video and motion graphics producer at FiveThirtyEight.

Anna Rothschild was FiveThirtyEight’s senior producer for video.


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