Poll offers insight into Americans' perceptions of SCOTUS

June 14, 2012
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A recent poll shows that 44 percent of Americans approve of the way the Supreme Court of the United States is handling its job. What’s also telling is how many people responded that they don’t know.

The majority of people polled between May 31 and June 3 for a New York Times/CBS News poll  said the country is on the wrong track and disapprove of the job Congress is doing. In each of those areas, 6 percent and 9 percent respectively either didn’t answer the question or didn’t know the answer.

When it came to approving or disapproving of the job the Supreme Court justices are doing, 20 percent didn’t know the answer or said it’s not applicable. A fifth of the people answering didn’t have the ability to answer that question. I interpret that as they have no idea what is going on with our Supreme Court, despite the news that it generates when high-profile cases like the health care law and Arizona immigration challenges are heard.

Perhaps allowing cameras into the courtroom would change that, but that’s a topic for another day.

According to the NYT, public approval of the nation’s highest court has gone down through the years – in the 1980s it was as high as 66 percent; in 2000, approval was around 50 percent. I wonder if they had decided Bush v. Gore yet when the poll was conducted.

Even though 20 percent couldn’t say they approve or disapprove of the Supreme Court’s job, only eight percent didn’t know or couldn’t answer the question as to whether the current justices decide their cases based on legal analysis alone or if they sometimes consider their personal views. Three-fourths of respondents believe the justices sometimes are influenced by their personal and political views.

Another interesting point – 60 percent think it’s a bad thing that justices have lifetime appointments. Only 33 percent support lifetime appointments.
 

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