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Posted on Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 10:03 a.m.

Gay marriage: Do you have confidence in the high court?

By Wayne Baker


View of the U.S. Supreme Court from its West Terrace. Official government photo by the office of the Architect of the Capitol, released for public use.

Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. This week Dr. Baker is discussing gay marriage.

Now, it’s all up to the nine justices! The U.S. Supreme Court this week heard arguments about two related “culture war” issues: same-sex marriage bans and the legal definition of marriage. The high court’s rulings expected in early summer will shape the rights, fortunes and misfortunes of many.

So far this week, we’ve discussed how public opinion is shifting in favor of legalizing gay marriage, the “nightingale” or bandwagon effect, whether the court will throw up its hands and leave decisions to the states, and the extent to which the justices might be subconsciously swayed by their religious affiliations.

Today, we consider an overarching question: Do we have still have confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court?

Favorability ratings of the high court are close to the all-time low, according to a Pew poll earlier this month. Three of 10 Americans (31 percent) say their overall opinion of the institution is very or mostly unfavorable. Only 52 percent have a favorable overall opinion. Back in July 1994, 80 percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of the high court. Starting in 2010, favorability ratings fell below 60 percent and have remained there since.

After the Affordable Care Act decision, ratings shifted dramatically by political party affiliation. Two-thirds of Democrats had a favorable rating, compared to just over a third of Republicans. Now, however, the two parties are closer. Fifty-six percent of Democrats have a favorable opinion of the Supreme Court, while 47 percent of Republicans feel the same.

What’s your opinion about the current U.S. Supreme Court?

Are you confident the court will make the right decision?

Wayne Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at or on Facebook.



Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 4:31 p.m.

When you ask your readers if they are confident that the court will make the "right decision", do you think they will define the "right decision" as the correct legal outcome or the outcome that they would personally prefer? People who would answer using the latter definition have no business discussing the Supreme Court. The Court's role is to decide what is legal, not what is fair or just or right.