'Of course': Former Justice Stephen Breyer says Supreme Court worries about drop in trust

Retired Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said in a new interview that he and his colleagues worry about public opinion and Americans' declining trust in the nation's highest court.

The Supreme Court's public approval rating has hovered near a record low of 40% for the last three years, according to Gallup polling. A Pew Research poll last year found that 54% of Americans view the court unfavorably following a series of high-profile rulings on controversial issues including affirmative action, reproductive health care and LGBTQ rights.

Controversy has particularly surrounded the court in recent months. Justice Samuel Alito has faced public scrutiny from critics over controversial flags flown at his homes, as well as his comments captured on a secret recording.

Justice Clarence Thomas has also faced backlash for failing to disclose trips, gifts and more from billionaire benefactor Harlan Crow.

"Fox News Sunday" host Shannon Bream asked Breyer if justices worry about the how Americans perceive the Supreme Court while serving.

"Of course you do. It takes you a few years. The first two years I promise you wander around that place and you think, 'How did I ever get appointed?' You don't tell anyone you're thinking that," Breyer joked, before adding "The applause wears off very fast."

But Breyer noted that those concerns go beyond the reputation of the court itself. The justice, who retired in 2022, explained that there is no formula to decide which cases are heard, but justices often consider the ramifications of their rulings.

That includes taking into consideration that politicians or other officials who aren't judges may take on the day-to-day enforcement of America's laws.

"You listen too much to popular opinion, you're not going to have a court," Breyer said. "You never listen and you don't know whether or not the laws will be enforced, you'll have a rule of law."

More: Supreme Court dropping decisions on abortion, Trump immunity and more in coming days

Rachel Barber is a 2024 election fellow at USA TODAY, focusing on politics and education. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter, as @rachelbarber_

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Stephen Breyer says Supreme Court worries about trust, public opinion