Majority of Israelis Still Has Faith in Supreme Court

Of the 62 percent of Israelis who say they trust the highest court in the land, 70 percent regard themselves as secular and only 10 percent as ultra-Orthodox.

Amit Shabi

For all the public criticism of the Supreme Court, 62 percent of Israelis say they trust it. That was one of the findings of the annual Israel Democracy Index, which was published Tuesday.

The trust placed in the court was far higher than that placed in government, which was just 36 percent. The result is virtually unchanged from last year, when 61 percent voiced confidence in the court.

The survey, conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, found a strong correlation between respondents’ level of religiosity and their view of the court. Only 10 percent of those who defined themselves as ultra-Orthodox said they trusted the court, down sharply from 40 percent in 2012. By contrast, about 70 percent of those who defined themselves as secular voiced confidence in the court.

Asked whether they favored depriving the court of its power to overturn legislation, only 37 percent of Jewish respondents voiced strong opposition to the move. Among Arab respondents, 58 percent were strongly opposed.

Responses to this question among Jewish respondents correlated strongly with both the respondent's political leanings and level of education. While 78 percent of self-defined leftists opposed the idea, a majority of rightists actually supported it; only 43 percent said they opposed stripping the court of its power to overturn laws.

Moreover, among those with a high-school education or less, 70 percent favored stripping the court of its power to overturn laws. But among those with at least one college degree, only 40 percent favored the idea.

“There are frequently differences between what we think the public mood is and the actual data,” Prof. Tamar Hermann, who conducted the survey, told Haaretz. “The attacks on the Supreme Court aren’t affecting the public, whose level of trust in this institution has remained stable for years.”

“The influence of religiosity on this issue is interesting, mainly because the attitudes of different population groups have remained on parallel lines for years,” she continued. “The ultra-Orthodox always voiced the least trust and the secular always voiced the most. Attitudes toward the Supreme Court are part of a significant attitudinal package regarding how the state should be run and who should determine its norms. Therefore, only very dramatic changes will cause a shift.”

More than 1,000 people were polled for the study, which was conducted by the Dialog polling firm.