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Women's Approval of SCOTUS Matches 13-Year Low Point

Women's Approval of SCOTUS Matches 13-Year Low Point

Story Highlights

  • Women's approval of the court down six points from one year ago
  • Meanwhile, men's approval of SCOTUS up 10 points
  • 67% of Republicans approve of the court, 36% of Democrats

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Men's and women's approval ratings of the Supreme Court diverged sharply in Gallup's annual early September update, resulting in a 17-point gender gap: 60% of men approved of the job the Supreme Court was doing at the time vs. 43% of women. By comparison, one year ago, men and women's views were nearly identical, with approval at 50% and 49%, respectively.

Line graph. Men and women have gone from near parity in Supreme Court approval in 2017 to a 17-percentage-point gap in 2018.

How women view the court is particularly relevant today as Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's nominee to fill a vacancy left by the recently retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Kavanaugh's first accuser yesterday, just days before the Supreme Court returns to begin its 2018-2019 term.

The gender gap in opinions of the court first emerged in a July 1-11 survey, conducted mostly before President Trump nominated Kavanaugh on July 9. The gap has expanded in the latest poll, conducted Sept. 4-12, during Kavanaugh's initial confirmation hearings -- but before sexual assault allegations against him were made public on Sept. 14, and prior to Kavanaugh's and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's Senate testimony this week.

The latest gap between men's and women's views of the high court's performance is wider than at any point in Gallup's tracking of the measure since 2001. The data suggest the decreases in approval have been mostly among Democratic and independent women, and the increases among independent men.

Two in Three Republicans Approve of SCOTUS' Handling of Its Job

Among party groups overall, the gap between Republicans' and Democrats' opinions of the Supreme Court is similar to what it was a year ago, not showing the same divergence as men's and women's views over the same time period.

Republicans remain most approving of the Supreme Court, with two in three Republicans (67%) saying they approve of the job it is doing. This is nearly twice as high as Democrats' rating of 36%, which is the lowest for Democrats in Gallup's trend since 2001. In general, each party has been more approving of the Supreme Court, as well as other governmental institutions, when the sitting president is from the same political party.

Line graph. Two-thirds of Republicans approve of the Supreme Court, compared with 36% of Democrats.

Slim Majority of Americans Approve of SCOTUS' Handling of Its Job

The Supreme Court's job approval rating among all Americans was 51% in the early September poll, similar to a 53% reading in July. Prior to that poll, the court's approval ratings had not reached 50% since 2010, with an all-time low of 42% recorded in 2016 after the court allowed colleges to continue to consider an applicant's racial or ethnic background as a factor in admissions decisions.

From 2000 to 2009, approval of the court reached 60% or more several times, but has not returned to that level since.

Line graph. Among overall Americans, approval of the Supreme Court is little changed at 51%.

Bottom Line

Though a slight majority of Americans approved of the Supreme Court's job in Gallup's latest reading, the ratings were not consistent across all groups.

As the U.S. Senate processes the testimony of Kavanaugh's accuser and decides how to proceed, a confirmation vote that seats Kavanaugh on the high bench may strongly influence how women view the court going forward. Any change brought about by the Kavanaugh situation will take place in an environment in which women are already much more negative about the court than men, and Democrats much more negative than Republicans.

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