Has the US Supreme Court become more conservative than the public? We introduce results of three surveys conducted over the course of a decade that ask respondents about their opinions on the policy issues before the court. Using these data, we show that the gap between the court and the public has grown since 2020, with the court moving from being quite close to the average American to a position that is more conservative than the majority of Americans. Second, in contrast to findings showing consistency in the public’s approval of or deference to the court, we find that the public’s expectations of the court vary significantly over time and in tandem with changes in the court’s composition and recent rulings. Even so, many members of the public currently underestimate the court’s conservative leaning. Third, we find that respondents’ perceptions of the court’s ideology relative to their own are associated with support for institutional changes but with important differences between Democrats and Republicans. The fact that so many people currently underestimate how conservative the court is implies that support for proposed changes to the court may be weaker than it would be if people knew with greater accuracy the court’s conservative nature.
Jessee, Stephen, Neil Malhotra, and Maya Sen. "A decade-long longitudinal survey shows that the Supreme Court is now much more conservative than the public." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 119.24 (June 2022).