Supreme Court Term Limits

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Supreme Court Term Limits

On Friday September 19th, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away, bringing partisan politics surrounding Supreme Court nominations and confirmations back in the spotlight. It will likely also spur discussions about Supreme Court reforms, possibly including the question about term limits for the Supreme Court. Justice Ginsberg served 27 years on the Court, having been appointed by President Clinton in 1993.

ActiVote conducted a survey in the ActiVote app regarding term limits for the Supreme Court providing five options to choose from, which can be summarized as follows: 

  • Term limits of 10 years.
  • Term limits of 18 years.
  • Term limits, but duration to be discussed.
  • Depoliticize, but not through term limits.
  • Keep the Supreme Court as is.

This results of this survey are exceptional in the combination of a great diversity of opinion while limited partisanship in that opinion.

We found that a large majority of 85% wants some form of change, and about 60% sees term limits as an option to do so. That 60%, however, seems divided about how long those term limits should be. 

About 70% of women see term limits as a good solution, while only just over 50% of men agree with that.

While older voters seem slighter more open to term limits as (part of) a solution, younger voters are more strongly favoring shorter term limits. 

There is a small split among party lines on this topic with a slight majority (53%) of Republicans opposing term limits, while only 27% of Democrats oppose them. At the same time, 37% of Republicans are happy with a specific solution of either 10 or 18 year term limits, while Democrats are more hesitant in picking a particular duration and only 25% support these specific durations. 

Overall, term limits may play some role in the discussion on depoliticizing the Supreme Court, and while it is encouraging that there is no strong partisan divide in the opinions around term limits, it seems there is insufficient clear support for a particular term limit solution to expect that these will be enacted any time soon.

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