NPR/Marist's post-Dobbs poll: Only 34% support expanding SCOTUS

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

No wonder Joe Biden and his team moved so quickly to tamp down calls for court-packing. They must have realized how deeply unpopular such calls would be — even in polls that return an outlier D+7 in the generic congressional ballot. The NPR/Marist poll taken immediately after the Supreme Court struck down Roe in its Dobbs decision shows an electorate that opposed that decision, 40/56.

It is, however, an electorate that opposes packing the Supreme Court by an even wider margin — 34/54. This popped up on Monday but is worth revisiting now:

This looks somewhat surprising, given the other topline reactions to the Dobbs decision in the survey:

  • 55%/36% support abortion rights
  • 57/36 believe Dobbs decision was “politically motivated”
  • 51/36 say they are more likely to vote for those who would restore Roe in legislation
  • Confidence in the Supreme Court has flipped from 60/36 to 39/58

Just how reliable are those reaction results, however? Or perhaps a better question: how predictable are they for voter action? Sixty-one percent of respondents said they would be “more likely to vote in November,” and yet all indications at the moment are that turnout didn’t budge four days after the Dobbs decision got published and seven weeks after it got leaked. This survey seems to have a lot of performative outrage in it that real-world measures and other polling don’t sustain. At least so far.

With that in mind, the court-packing question makes for a very interesting brake on that performative outrage. It’s deeply unpopular among all demos; the only majorities in the demos are hardly overwhelming or surprising: Democrats 62/24, Biden voters 58/26, and “adults who support abortion rights,” 51/37. Not even the activists like the idea much, and other Democratic-leaning demos are downright bleak on the idea:

  • Income under $50K: 30/53
  • Women: 34/51 (!)
  • Under 45: 39/50
  • GenZ/Millennials: 42/46
  • GenX: 32/57
  • Boomers: 30/61 (!)
  • Big city: 42/48
  • Small city: 43/51
  • Suburban: 36/51
  • Non-white: 43/46

No wonder the Biden team rushed to put the kibosh on court-packing talk. It’s a no-sale even while the media’s providing hyperbolic descriptions of what actually took place in Dobbs, which is that the court sent the issue back to the people and our democratic institutions. Imagine what these numbers will look like when the media circus ends and people find out that the sky hasn’t actually fallen.

The White House would be far better off working on actions that have more public support. Unfortunately — or fortunately, depending on your view of this issue — they still don’t have a clue on their next steps, despite having literally seven weeks of lead time to formulate a response:

The White House is unlikely to take up the bold steps to protect women’s right to have an abortion that Democratic lawmakers have called for in recent days, interviews with officials show. …

Protecting abortion rights is a top issue for women Democrats, Reuters polling shows. The White House, which misjudged when the ruling would be issued, is still not meeting the moment on the issue, some health experts and Democrats complain.

“The White House had a month, if not a year, to plan for this and they should have really come out with a major white paper plan of action the moment Dobbs was announced,” said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of medicine at Georgetown University and faculty director of its Institute for National and Global Health Law. “The impression is that the White House is leading from behind, that they were caught flat footed.”

That’s not just an impression. That has been the modus operandi of Joe Biden and this White House since day one. Leading from behind and being caught flat-footed are among the few constants of Biden’s “leadership.”