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Public’s opinion of Supreme Court plummets after abortion decision

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
The Supreme Court in Washington on June 26, 2022.
The Supreme Court in Washington on June 26, 2022.Samuel Corum / AFP - Getty Images

If it’s FRIDAY… Redacted version of affidavit used for Trump search warrant is set for release… President Biden blasts MAGA philosophy as “semi-fascism”… RNC calls remark “despicable,” per NBC’s Sahil Kapur… Republican Blake Masters backtracks on abortion and scrubs campaign website in AZ-SEN, NBC’s Allan Smith and Marc Caputo report… And Dem Rep. Abigail Spanberger goes on the attack in VA-7.

But FIRST… Going back to 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court had always had a net-positive favorable/unfavorable rating in the NBC News poll. 

And since 2000, more Americans said they had high confidence in the court rather than low confidence.

Not anymore. 

In our latest national NBC News poll — conducted after June’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade — the court’s favorability rating has sunk to 35% positive, 42% negative among registered voters.

And a combined 37% of voters say they have very little or no confidence in the nation’s highest court, versus 27% who have great or quite a bit of confidence in the institution. 

That’s a reversal from our poll in 2019, when 39% said they had high confidence, while 17% had low confidence.

One more way to look at this image decline: In Jan. 2021 — so at the start of the 6-3 conservative court — almost every demographic group had a net-positive view of the court, including among Democrats, independents and Republicans.

Now? Democrats are at minus-51; independents are at minus-8; and Republicans are plus-36. 

Chief Justice John Roberts has stressed the importance of the public’s trust and the dangers of inappropriate political influence. 

And Justice Sonia Sotomayor warned that the Supreme Court wouldn’t survive the “stench” of overturning Roe v. Wade. 

Well, look at the numbers now.

Tweet of the Day

Data Download: The number of the day is 44%

That’s President Biden’s approval rating in Gallup’s August poll of U.S. adults, the highest mark for Biden in Gallup’s polling in a year. 

Biden’s numbers improved among independents, with his approval rating from that group going from 31% to 40%. Fifty-eight percent of adults approved of his handling of the pandemic — the only issue where Biden’s approval eclipses 50%. 

With 53% of adults disapproving of his performance in office, Biden’s standing is a far cry from where it was when he first took office — Biden had a 57% favorable rating in the Gallup poll in January of 2021. But the uptick puts him at a slightly higher August approval rating than presidents going into each of the last four midterm elections (an ominous distinction, as none of those midterms went well for those presidents' parties). 

Other numbers to know

4: The number of states with so-called trigger laws banning abortion that were set to take effect this week. 

12%: The rate at which women outpaced men in new voter registrations in Pennsylvania after the Supreme Court’s abortion decision, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.

67%: The share of Michigan likely voters who say they’d vote for a constitutional amendment protecting abortion access, per a new EPIC-MRA poll. (Petitioners are expected to have enough signature to put that proposal, and another on voting access, on the November ballot.)

$350,000: How much the Republican-aligned American Action Network is spending on a new ad that criticizes President Biden’s student loan plan as unfair to working voters, airing during sporting events and targeted to blue-collar voters on digital, per Axios

$1.6 million: How much that one of the vendors for Truth Social, former President Trump’s social media company, claims the social media company hasn’t paid, per Fox Business

$25,000: The cost of a ticket to a fundraiser with former President Barack Obama and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Gary Peters next month, per Axios.

2: How many people pleaded guilty to stealing Joe Biden’s daughter Ashley’s diary in 2020 and selling it to Project Veritas.

Midterm roundup: A tale of three Republicans

Republicans are clearly still figuring out how to address abortion. Just look at how three Senate GOP contenders approached the issue Thursday. 

NBC News’ Allan Smith and Marc Caputo report that Blake Masters, who is running for Senate in Arizona, scrubbed his website, removing language that described Masters as “100% pro-life” and deleting Masters’ support for “a federal personhood law.” Masters also released a video online where he sought to cast Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly as extreme on abortion, and said he supports a ban on “very late-term and partial birth abortions.” 

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told CBS 4 Miami that “we should be protecting innocent human life from the moment of conception,” but that he would consider supporting bills with exceptions. He dodged a question about whether he would support a federal ban on abortion, saying: “I think right now this issue is appropriately before the states. That’s where it should have always been… We don’t have the votes now or anytime in the near future for that.” 

And Republican Tiffany Smiley, who is running against Sen. Patty Murray in Democratic-leaning Washington, spoke directly to the camera in her new TV ad, saying, “I’m pro-life, but I oppose a federal abortion ban.” 

Elsewhere on the campaign trail…

Pennsylvania Senate: Politico reports on how Republican Mehmet Oz has ramped up his attacks directly on Democrat John Fetterman’s health as he looks to find solid footing in the Senate race. 

Wisconsin Senate: Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes responded to GOP attacks ads tying him to progressive members of Congress, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “I’m not running for the Senate to join the Squad or any group of lawmakers.”

Michigan Governor: Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer leads Republican nominee Tudor Dixon by a margin of 50% to 39% in a new EPIC-MRA poll, but Whitmer’s job approval is slightly underwater (51% rate her job performance negatively, 47% positively). 

New York's 10th District: Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., endorsed former House impeachment manager Dan Goldman Thursday in the open seat race, tweeting that Democrats should “coalesce around the nominee.” NBC News’ Decision Desk still considers the race too close to call.

New York’s 23rd District:: Politico reports on how New York’s state GOP chairman overcame the controversial Republican backed by Rep. Elise Stefanik on the way to a pivotal primary victory

Texas' 28th District: Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar made his first TV buy of the general election, reserving $46,000 on the airwaves, per AdImpact. 

Pennsylvania's 8th District: Republican Jim Bognet appears to have removed several mentions of former President Donald Trump from his campaign website, HuffPost reports. Bognet is in a competitive race against Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright.

Ad watch: Spanberger attacks on abortion

Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger is up with her first spot of the general election, where she attacks her opponent, Republican Yesli Vega over her position on abortion.

The ad highlights comments Vega made, where she questioned whether a woman is less likely to get pregnant after a rape. Spanberger’s ad alleges Vega “is too extreme for Virginia.”

The incumbent congresswoman has a significant financial edge over her opponent, and the race for Virginia’s 7th District, rated a toss-up by the non-partisan Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, is expected to draw significant attention this fall.  

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

Federal intelligence agencies are preparing to fight foreign election interference for the third election in a row.

The Biden White House highlights Republicans who criticized president’s debt-cancellation move but who received forgiven PPP loans. 

Principals write a guide on school shootings that they hope their peers never have to use.