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Two-thirds of Americans support term limits for Supreme Court Justices

Confidence in the Supreme Court is falling, and a majority of Democrats and Republicans support term limits

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Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, April 23, 2021. Seated from left are Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Standing from left are Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch and Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Erin Schaff, The New York Times via Associated Press

Some Americans are ready for some fresh faces on the Supreme Court. But expanding the court isn’t the way most Americans want to do it, according to recent poll results.

About two-thirds of U.S. adults support term limits or a mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court Justices, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll.

The Supreme Court’s approval has fallen this year, and many are supportive of reforms. The poll, conducted after recent rulings on abortion and guns, found 67% of U.S. adults support term limits for justices and 64% support a mandatory retirement age. Pollsters also asked about increasing the size of the court, the least popular reform, which was supported by just 34%.

Democrats are most likely to support term limits or a mandatory retirement age for justices (82% and 75%, respectively), unsurprising considering the court’s current 6-3 conservative advantage. But majorities of Republicans agree with them. The poll found 57% of Republicans back term limits and 56% are in favor of a mandatory retirement age.

The poll did not ask how many terms respondents believe justices should serve, nor a desired age for retirement.

Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have some form of mandatory retirement, often at the age of 70, according to a bipartisan presidential commission report on court reforms published last year.

The report found the U.S. is the only major constitutional democracy without a retirement or term limits for its high court justices. In Canada, which also has a nine-member Supreme Court, judges are required to retire at age 75.

The U.S. Supreme Court today is relatively young. Clarence Thomas is the oldest at 74, followed by Samuel Alito, who is 72. Sonia Sotomayor is 68, Chief Justice John Roberts is 67, Elena Kagan is 62, Brett Kavanaugh is 57, Neil Gorsuch is 54, Ketanji Brown Jackson is 51 and Amy Coney Barrett is 50.

Just 17% of U.S. adults said they have a great deal of confidence in the court, while 43% said they have hardly any confidence, and age was a factor in how people felt. People ages 18 to 29 were more likely to say they lack confidence in the court than people 60 and older.

Democrat Patrick Allen, a 33-year-old from Logan, Utah, told the Associated Press he doesn’t have confidence in the court because justices were “sticking more to their guns along the lines of their party instead of the Constitution,” and 90-year-old Republican Phil Boller of LaFollette, Tenn., said he’s open to term limits but also said he sees no reason to change the way the court operates.