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New NPR poll shows a lower court decision to ban an abortion pill is unpopular


We have a report now on an unpopular institution.


Which one?

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

MARTÍNEZ: Because that line doesn't really narrow it down. The president's approval rating is below 50%. Support for Congress - extremely low. And now it would seem the Supreme Court's popularity is sliding, too.

INSKEEP: Last Friday, the court preserved access to an abortion drug for now. But that's not the last word on yet another divisive case. And today, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll shows that the original lower court decision to ban mifepristone is far out of step with the American public. NPR senior editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro has been tracking this.

Hey there, Domenico.


INSKEEP: How unpopular is the idea of banning access to medication abortion?

MONTANARO: Yeah, well, this was a pretty big finding because 64% of respondents said that they are against laws that ban access to a medication abortion, and that includes actually a majority of Republicans. That might tell you why there's been such a big split among Republicans on this issue. You know, post-Dobbs, this has been a whole new world politically. And Republicans really have not figured out how to message on abortion after 50 years of clamoring for the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

INSKEEP: What do voters say when asked if judges should be the ones to decide whether FDA approvals of drugs are overturned here?

MONTANARO: Well, they are definitely against that. Sixty-one percent said that judges should not be able to overturn FDA approvals. And again, there's another divide among Republicans. Fifty-one percent of Republicans said that they should be able to do that, but a significant percentage, 45%, said that they should not.

There's a split here among how Republican candidates feel on this, too. You know, former President Trump, who's the frontrunner for the GOP nomination right now, has essentially punted, said it's a states' rights issue. But his former vice president, Mike Pence, was critical of that stance over the weekend while at a conservative conference in Iowa. And Pence said this about mifepristone to CBS's "Face The Nation."


MIKE PENCE: I'd like to see this medication off the market to protect the unborn, but also I have deep concerns about the way the FDA went about approving mifepristone 20 years ago.

MONTANARO: Well, most Americans, as we're noting, disagree with that.

INSKEEP: Well, what are Americans saying about the court itself? It has this 6 to 3 conservative majority. It is issuing rulings that a lot of Americans would like, a lot of Americans would dislike. And it's done so in a very kind of out-there tone that has been described often as partisan. What do people think about that?

MONTANARO: Well, the court used to be one of the most revered institutions in American life, but really not anymore. We've been seeing this steady and continued decline in confidence in the court. Our poll found that 6 in 10 said they don't have very much or no confidence at all in the court. Just 37% said that they have a great deal or good amount of confidence in it.

Marist has been asking this question for about the last five years, and the 62% who said they don't have much confidence in the court is the lowest they've recorded. You know, think about that. Sixty-two percent have little confidence or none at all in the institution that has the final say on all of the most controversial issues in American society - guns, health care, abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, voting rights, affirmative action, how police interact with their communities, you name it.

INSKEEP: And the judges making those decisions, the justices - there are relatively few of them, and they don't change very often because of the lifetime appointments.

MONTANARO: Yeah, and we asked about that too. And most Americans think that should change. Sixty-eight percent said the justices should only serve for a limited time. Only 30% said they think they should serve as long as they want.

INSKEEP: NPR's Domenico Montanaro.

Thanks as always.

MONTANARO: You're so welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.