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Just a few short years ago, we lamented the fact that a portion of the population had “never heard of” the Supreme Court, and that nearly two-thirds of Americans couldn’t name a single Supreme Court justice. These days, people are much more aware of the high court’s existence, if only for political reasons, and they’re much more knowledgable about the identities of certain justices thanks to their controversial confirmation hearings, highly acclaimed biopics, documentaries, and pop-culture celebrity, and a president who gripes about some of them on Twitter.
That’s why the results of the latest Economist/YouGov survey, where respondents were asked to rate all of the Supreme Court justices, were a bit unsurprising.
Let’s start out with the basics before we get to the justices’ favorability ratings. According to the survey, 48 percent of Americans approve of the current Supreme Court, while 26 percent disapprove. Can you believe that back in the day (between 1987 and 2010), the high court’s approval rating never fell below 57 percent, and was oftentimes higher than 70 percent? Those were simpler times.
Now, before we start discussing the names of the judges who ranked the highest in the favorability poll, we’ll break down the Economist/YouGov survey’s methodology for you. From June 21 to June 23, 1,500 American adults were asked whether they found each Supreme Court justice “very favorable,” “somewhat favorable,” “somewhat unfavorable,” “very unfavorable,” and “not sure” (a rating which we’re guessing amounts to a polite “uh, who?”).
How do SCOTUS justices stack up against one another when it comes to favorability?
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg took home the top prize, with 42 percent rating her “very” or “somewhat” favorable,” while 26 percent rated her “very” or “somewhat” unfavorable. Thirty-three percent of respondents were “not sure” about her.
President Trump’s Supreme Court appointments, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, both fared worse than Ginsburg in the eyes of the public. Kavanaugh broke even with 33 percent rating him “very” or “somewhat” favorable, while 33 percent rated him “very” or “somewhat” unfavorable. Thirty-four percent were “not sure” about him. As for Gorsuch, 27 percent rated him “very” or “somewhat” favorable, 23 percent rated him “very” or “somewhat” unfavorable, and 50 percent weren’t sure about him at all.
Mediaite has the details on the rest of the justices’ favorability ratings:
Justice Sonia Sotomayor notched 27 percent total favorable versus 21 percent unfavorable, and 42 percent “not sure.”
Justice Elena Kagan scored 27 percent total favorable, 18 percent total unfavorable, and 54 percent “not sure.”
Justice Samuel Alito got 27 percent total favorable, 20 percent total unfavorable, and 54 percent “not sure.”
Chief Justice John Roberts was at 31 percent total favorable, 24 percent total unfavorable, and 44 percent “not sure.”
Justice Stephen Breyer tallied 25 percent total favorable, 15 percent total unfavorable, and 59 percent “not sure.”
And Justice Clarence Thomas scored 33 percent total favorable, 28 percent total unfavorable, and 38 percent “not sure.”
It’s worth noting that Kavanaugh was the only justice who failed to achieve positive net favorability in this survey. At least he still has his beer.