Bloomberg Law
May 24, 2023, 5:00 AM

Supreme Court Approval Slides Amid Thomas Ethics Controversies

Greg Stohr
Greg Stohr
Bloomberg News

Public confidence in the US Supreme Court slid amid a flurry of ethics controversies, including revelations that Justice Clarence Thomas got luxury vacations and other benefits from a Republican megadonor, according to a new Marquette Law School Poll.

The court’s approval rating fell to 41%, down six percentage points from January, the poll found. Only 25% of people expressed a great deal or a lot of confidence in the court, the lowest figure since polling began in 2019.

The justices have yet to rule in the biggest cases of their term, including fights over race-conscious college admissions and President Joe Biden’s student-loan relief plan. But the court has been under intense scrutiny in recent months, in large part because of Thomas’s decades-long relationship with Dallas real estate mogul Harlan Crow.

Justice Clarence Thomas
Photographer: Eric Lee/Bloomberg

ProPublica reported that Thomas and his wife took vacations over two decades at Crow’s expense, traveling on the businessman’s yacht and private jet. Follow-up stories revealed that Crow had bought Thomas’s childhood home in Georgia from the justice and his relatives and paid for private schooling for Thomas’s grandnephew.

Thomas’s unfavorable ratings rose from 32% in March to 36% in the new poll, highest among the nine justices. Among those surveyed, 25% said they had a favorable opinion of Thomas, down from 29% in March.

The court’s approval bottomed out in July at 38% after landmark decisions overturning the constitutional right to abortion and expanding gun rights. The approval rate had been at 66% in 2020, just before the court lurched to the right when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death let then-President Donald Trump make his third appointment.

The court nonetheless remains more respected than other national institutions, including the presidency, Congress and the media. And 26% said the justices’ honesty and ethical standards were high or very high, topping 19% for journalists, 14% for lawyers and 8% for cable-TV news.

The poll, conducted May 8-18, had a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Greg Stohr in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Elizabeth Wasserman at

Sara Forden

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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