Liberals and conservatives both perceive the Supreme Court as acting against their preferences

The latest Marquette Law Poll found that approval of the U.S. Supreme Court fell by 11 percentage points from July to September. This change was driven by a 22-point decline among Democrats and a 10-point decline among Independents. Republican approval stayed about the same.

This follows the Court’s narrow September ruling declining to halt Texas’ ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Other recent controversial decisions included striking down the CDC’s eviction moratorium and preventing the Biden administration from ending Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers.

Majorities of Republicans approved of all three of these decisions. Democrats disapproved of each, but more of them lacked an opinion about the CDC moratorium decision and the remain-in-Mexico decision.

Attitudes to Supreme Court decisions
Marquette Law School Supreme Court Poll, September 2021, n = 1,411
Heard nothing at all Heard of but not enough for an opinion Favor Oppose
End CDC moratorium
Republican 18% 20% 57% 5%
Independent 13% 34% 39% 14%
Democrat 17% 33% 22% 27%
Reinstate remain-in-Mexico policy
Republican 13% 8% 76% 2%
Independent 21% 24% 34% 20%
Democrat 14% 25% 17% 43%
Uphold 6-week abortion ban
Republican 11% 15% 57% 17%
Independent 10% 16% 27% 47%
Democrat 7% 12% 9% 71%

In light of this, it makes sense that Democratic approval of the court plummeted, but why didn’t Republican approval grow?

Continue ReadingLiberals and conservatives both perceive the Supreme Court as acting against their preferences

Remembering Shirley S. Abrahamson: Wisconsin’s First Woman Supreme Court Justice

Shirley Abrahamson with raised right hand, taking oath in 1976.
Shirley Abrahamson is sworn into the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1976 by late Chief Justice Bruce Beilfuss.

On Saturday, December 19, former Wisconsin Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson, died after battling pancreatic cancer. She was 87. Just two ways she was like another famous, short, tough, trailblazing Jewish jurist: Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Abrahamson, the daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants who arrived in the United States in the early 1930s, grew up in New York City. She graduated magna cum laude from NYU with her bachelor’s degree in 1953. Three years later, she graduated first in her class from Indiana Law School; she was also the only woman.

She met her husband Seymour in Indiana; they moved to Madison in the early 1960s, where Abrahamson earned her S.J.D. from UW Law in 1962. Thereafter, she became the first female lawyer at the Madison law firm La Follette, Sinykin, Doyle & Anderson. She was named a partner within a year. All throughout the time she was in practice, she also taught at UW Law.

In 1976, then-Governor Patrick Lucey appointed her to the Wisconsin Supreme Court’ she was the first woman to serve there.

Continue ReadingRemembering Shirley S. Abrahamson: Wisconsin’s First Woman Supreme Court Justice

Beyond the Horse Races, There is Deeper and Broader Value in Public Polling

This was published as an opinion column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on November 15, 2020.

On August 11, 2020, the Marquette Law School Poll released a round of results that included some remarkable findings: 35% of Wisconsin voters planned to vote early by mail, and 81% of those voters planned to vote for Democratic candidate Joe Biden for president. Another 46% were planning to vote in person on election day, and 67% of them planned to vote for Republican candidate Donald Trump. And 12% were planning to vote early in-person and were pretty evenly split.

The numbers didn’t attract much attention from commentators. But they gave a big heads-up about what was likely to unfold nearly three months later, after the polls closed on November 3. There were going to be unprecedented numbers of absentee voters, and they were going to vote overwhelmingly for Biden. And a majority of in-person election day votes would go for Trump.

This became a key to understanding election night and week, not only in Wisconsin, but in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and several other states. Based on in-person voting, Trump took the lead in each one on election night. Results from absentee votes were reported more slowly. Biden won by big margins among absentees, and Trump’s early lead shrank and then disappeared.

Continue ReadingBeyond the Horse Races, There is Deeper and Broader Value in Public Polling