According to a recent poll conducted by Marquette Law School, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has surpassed Brett Kavanaugh as the least popular justice, holding the highest unfavorability rating among all Supreme Court justices.
The national poll, conducted over a 10-day period in May 2023, revealed that 36 percent of respondents held an unfavorable view of Thomas, while only 25 percent had a favorable view, resulting in an 11-point net negative rating.
Kavanaugh remained in a close second, with 32 percent of respondents expressing an unfavorable view of him, compared to 22 percent who had a favorable view, resulting in a 10-point net negative rating. Amy Coney Barrett followed closely behind with a 27 percent unfavorable view and a 19 percent favorable view, resulting in an 8-point net negative rating.
Analyzing the data and comparing it to earlier poll results provides valuable insights into the public’s perception of the Supreme Court and its justices. The majority of Americans are not familiar with individual justices, with Thomas being the most widely recognized justice, known by 60 percent of respondents well enough to form an opinion. Kavanaugh is the second most recognized justice, known by 54 percent of respondents.
For the remaining seven justices, a majority of respondents stated that they did not know them well enough to rate them. Elena Kagan emerged as the least recognized justice, with 72 percent of respondents unable to provide a rating for her.
Among the justices, four received net positive ratings, four received net negative ratings, and Samuel Alito maintained an almost net neutral position, although his net negative rating dipped to minus 2 in May 2023.
Sonia Sotomayor held the highest favorability rating among the justices, with a net rating of 14 points. Ketanji Brown Jackson followed with a net rating of 8 points, while Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch held net ratings of 7 and 4 points, respectively.
Comparing the data to March 2023, it is evident that most justices experienced a slight decrease in favorability, with Thomas witnessing the most significant decline. His net favorability dropped from minus 3 points in March to minus 11 points in May.
Respondents were also asked to rate the “honesty and ethical standards” of U.S. Supreme Court justices compared to other institutions. The Supreme Court justices received a net rating of minus 9 points, with 26 percent rating them high or very high, 35 percent rating them low or very low, and 39 percent rating them average.
The justices were viewed more favorably compared to journalists, who received a net favorability rating of minus 26, lawyers with minus 29, and cable TV news with minus 49.
When comparing data from September 2019, confidence in the Supreme Court has declined. In 2019, 37 percent of respondents had a great deal or a lot of confidence in the Court, while 20 percent had little or no confidence, resulting in a net confidence rating of 17 points. In May 2023, only 25 percent expressed a great deal of confidence, while 39 percent had little or no confidence, leading to a net confidence rating of minus 14.
The Marquette Law School poll, conducted from May 8-18, surveyed 1,010 adults nationwide and has a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.