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DOES AMERICA STILL HAVE CONFIDENCE IN THE SUPREME COURT?

September 25, 2020

With the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Donald Trump has promised to fill her vacancy prior the end of his term. And the Republican Senate has decided to accommodate him with a vote on his nominee, even though they took the opposite position when Obama was in his final term. As Yogi Berra would say: “It’s deja vu all over again.”

Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion with undue Government restriction, the evangelical right and many conservatives have the made the Court a battleground for new appointees.

This ongoing battle for control of the Court has led me to wonder if it has affected voters confidence in this institution over the past 40 years. And does it affect Republicans and Democrats differently.

Below is as chart displaying the percent of all voters percent of confidence in the Court since 1975. As you can see it varies over time, ranging in a low 23% in 2014 to a high of 37% in 1991.

This chart tells us little about the dynamics, except that it fluctuates over the years. To get a better idea of what is affecting these changes, we need to look at both Republicans and Democrats evaluations of the Court over time as shown below.

RED LINE = REPUBLICAN OPI NIONS / BLUE = DEMOCRAT OPINONS

Although both parties confidence in the Court has fluctuated over the past 40 years, the Democrats have been more consistent than the Republicans, averaging around 30%. The Republicans seem to be reacting to what party controlled the White House.

When Jimmy Carter was President (1977-1981), Republican confidence dropped by 10% during his term. When Ronald Reagan held the White House, confidence rose by over 10%. And most recently, with the 2016 election of Donald Trump, Republican confidence jumped by 15%.

For Republicans, the value of the Supreme Court increases and decreases depending on the party of the President. For Democrats no so much.

This is not surprising, since of the Evangelical voter has become a large component of the Republican Party’s coalition. In Chart 2 below, you can see the difference between Republican and Democratic voters on whether the Bible is the word of God.

CHART 2

I wasn’t able to find data on evangelic voters, but belief in the “Bible is the word of God” is probably a good substitute. As you can see, more Democrats than Republicans believed that the Bible was the word of God until the mid 1990’s. After the year 2000, the Republicans increasingly supported this opinion and Democrats faded until the gap between the two parties reached 17%.

And that brings us to the what is driving the Supreme Court battle: the right to have an abortion. In Chart 3 below, the gap between Republicans and Democrats on abortion rights has exponentially expanded over the past 27 years.

Today, there is a 35% difference in the two parties on the right for a woman to have an abortion for any reason. And I can guarantee you that the intensity of the anti-abortion voters far exceeds those who believe in abortion rights. And this fact is driving the current political battle over the appointing a new Supreme Court Justice.

It is not surprising that Amy Coney Barrett is viewed as the leading candidate to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court. She is Catholic and has been critical of the Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in the past, according to news reports and is supported by virtually all anti-abortion groups.

To sum this up, the Supreme Court is more important to rank and file Republicans that it is to Democrats. The reason for this is abortion. Republicans tend to lose confidence in the Court when a Democratic President is elected. Democratic confidence in the Court is less affected by the President’s Party. Now you can watch the political battle for the Court appointment and tell your friends why it’s happening. Be safe…

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