Supreme Court Justices Insist They Aren't Partisan. Americans Disagree

U.S. Supreme Court justices have insisted that the nation's highest court is not partisan and that their decisions should not be viewed in a political light, but a new poll shows most Americans do not agree.

A Grinnell College and Selzer & Company poll released on Wednesday found that 62 percent of respondents believed that the Supreme Court's decisions are driven by politics rather than the U.S. Constitution and the law.

The Court has recently faced criticism for declining to grant a stay to a controversial six-week abortion ban in Texas in a move seen as a potential threat to the longstanding precedent established in Roe v. Wade.

The 6-3 conservative majority on the Court has shifted the balance of power away from Chief Justice John Roberts, who was previously the decisive vote when the Court was divided 5-4 and often joined the liberals in key cases.

However, nominations to the Court have long been a political battleground.

The Grinnell-Selzer poll found that just 30 percent of Americans believe the justices' decisions are based on the Constitution and the law.

Sixty-two percent of respondents said the Court's decisions were based on the "political views of members" and eight percent said they weren't sure. The poll was conducted among 915 U.S. adults from October 13 to 17, and had a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

The poll also found that viewing the Court's decisions as politically motivated cut across the partisan divide, with 60 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of independents all agreeing that the justices' decisions were based on their political beliefs.

Three members of the Court have defended the institution in the recent past and insisted that their decisions are not driven by politics.

In a lecture on September 16, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, the longest serving conservative on the Court, warned against judges involving themselves in issues better left to other branches of government.

"When we begin to venture into the legislative or executive branch lanes, those of us, particularly in the federal judiciary with lifetime appointments, are asking for trouble," Thomas said.

Though he did not directly addressed suggested reform of the Court, such as court packing, Thomas warned: "I think we should be careful destroying our institutions because they don't give us what we want, when we want it."

Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative, defended the Court on September 12 at an event alongside Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"My goal today is to convince you that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks," Barrett said.

"Judicial philosophies are not the same as political parties," she added.

Attempts to defend the Court have not been confined to its conservative wing, however. Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, the most senior liberal justice, warned against liberal attempts to change the Court.

In Breyer's latest book, The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics, Breyer rejected the idea that the Court is politicized.

"Political groups may favor a particular appointment," Breyer wrote, "But once appointed a judge naturally decides a case in the way that he or she believes the law demands. It is a judge's sworn duty to be impartial, and all of us take that oath seriously."

Photo Composite Shows Justices Thomas and Barrett
This composite photo shows Supreme Court Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Amy Coney Barrett. A new poll has found most Americans believe the Court's decisions are driven by politics. Getty Images