CNN Poll: Judging the Supreme Court
June 20th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
10 months ago

CNN Poll: Judging the Supreme Court

Washington (CNN) - As the Supreme Court gets ready to issue opinions on some high profile and contentious cases, a new national poll indicates Americans are split on whether the high court is doing a good job.

According to a CNN/ORC International survey released Thursday morning, 48% of the public say they approve of the job the Supreme Court's doing, with an equal amount saying they disapprove.

There is, however, an ideological divide. Fifty-three percent of liberals and 58% of moderates, but only 37% of conservatives, say that they approve of the court.

"That's probably a reaction to last year's decision on Barack Obama's health care law," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

In a closely watched ruling, the court upheld the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, last June.

"Before that ruling, most conservatives supported the Supreme Court, compared to only 44% of liberals. Now, most liberals approve of the court, with most conservatives saying they disapprove," adds Holland.

All that may change over the next week as the Supreme Court releases opinions on affirmative action, same-sex marriage, and the Voting Rights Act, cases that are sure to generate fresh controversy.

The case involving affirmative action is Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin. Abigail Fisher individually sued the flagship state university after her college application was rejected in 2008 when she was a high school senior in Sugar Land, Texas. Fisher claims she was turned away in part because she is white, despite being more qualified than some minority applicants. The school defends its policy of considering race as one of many factors, such as test scores, community service, leadership and work experience, to ensure a diverse campus.

According to the poll, nearly seven in ten disapprove of affirmative action admissions programs at colleges and law schools that give racial preferences to minority applicants, with 29% saying they disagree.

There's an obvious partisan divide, with 49% of Democrats, 24% of independents, and just 14% of Republicans approving of such affirmative action programs. And there's a racial gap, with 51% of non-white respondents but just 19% of white respondents saying they approve of giving preferences to minority applicants.

Also in front of the Supreme Court is the Voting Rights Act, which was passed in 1965 to prevent some state and local governments from using rules and procedures which prevented many black Americans from voting. The key enforcement provision of the measure was reauthorized in 2006 for another 25 years, with all or parts of 16 states covered under the "pre-clearance" provision.

A county in Alabama subsequently filed suit, saying the federal monitoring of their election procedures was overly burdensome and unwarranted. The case before the high court is called Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder.
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The survey indicates the public is evenly divided over whether the Voting Rights Act is still necessary, with 48% saying yes and 50% saying no. There's a slight racial gap and a larger partisan divide.

There are two same-sex marriage cases in front of the Supreme Court.

At issue in Hollingsworth v. Perry is whether the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment guarantee of "equal protection" prevents states from defining marriage as being only between one man and one woman. The case involves California's Proposition 8, a statewide ballot measure that banned same-sex marriages in the Golden State, which California's Supreme Court had previously ruled were legal.

According to the poll, 55% of Americans support same-sex marriage, with 44% opposed. The 55% support is up 11 percentage points from 2008.

"In the 1970s, when polls first tackled this touchy topic, a majority of Americans believed that homosexual relationships between consenting adults were morally wrong, a belief that persisted into the 1990s and the first few years of the 21st century," says Holland. "But three years ago, the number who felt that homosexual relationships were morally wrong began to drop below 50%, and currently 54% of the public says that homosexual relationships are not a moral issue. Not surprisingly, that shift in opinion coincided with a growth in support for same-sex marriage."

The other case is Windsor v. U.S.. At issue is whether the federal Defense of Marriage Act violates equal protection guarantees in the Fifth Amendment's due process clause as applied to same-sex couples legally married under the laws of their states.

The case involves Edith "Edie" Windsor, who was forced to assume an estate tax bill much larger than those other married couples would have to pay. Because her partner was a woman, the federal government did not recognize the same-sex marriage legally, even though their home state of New York did. The law known as DOMA defines marriage for federal purposes as a union between a man and woman only.

The legal issue is whether the federal government can deny tax, health and pension benefits to same-sex couples in states where they can legally marry.

According to the poll, 60% say the federal government should recognize same-sex marriages performed in states that allow them, with 39% saying they disagree.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International June 11-13, with 1,014 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

soundoff (162 Responses)
  1. ST

    Anyone can take polls to see how people feel about the Supreme Court BUT not judging them. They always have the final say. Anyone who takes their disputes to them always expect to win. If it happens they lose, for sure they think the Supreme Court is not fair. One good example is the "Obamacare". They ruled out that it is the law of the land, BUT those who lost, are not convinced it is are fair.

    June 20, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  2. Chris

    A problem with the Supreme Court is that they are like us, NOT impartial! They each have their own private agenda to follow for whatever reasons. It's not always about what is best for America, but what is best for them or their own special group or party. So much for Democracy working as planned.

    June 20, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  3. us_1776

    Issues of rights are something that SCOTUS cannot ignore and pass off to the states.

    RIghts are at the very foundation of our society and our Bill of Rights.

    Immutable characteristics give a class of people protection as a minority. This includes skin color, gender and sexual-orientation as well.

    June 20, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  4. Wake up People!

    So minorities want preferences they don't deserve?? Really?? What about an equal playing field?? That's what I want. The same opportunities that anyone else gets. There is no way in hell I would ever want to be in a position that I'm not qualified for.

    You people making your statements about blacks and other minorities really need to open your minds and hearts and get to know some of us and stop making idiotic statements based on things that drugged out Rush says.

    Remember, no matter what color or lack of color your skin is or has, WE ALL BLEED RED.

    June 20, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  5. Vince

    The court has the final say. The Heath Care law is the law of the land. If you don't like it you can move to Canada...oh wait they have universal health care there. You can move to western Europe...oh wait they have it there too. Well...I hear the Republic of the Congo is lovely this time of year. Happy travels!

    June 20, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  6. LukeVentura

    Estimated 7 million non-agricultural jobs are held by illegal aliens.
    This is one of the reason why you, or your adult kids can't find a job.
    Illegals are using fake, or stolen identity to hold jobs.
    If you against any kind of Amnesty, go to this website and register.
    Google this: NUMBERSUSA .Once you are registered (join us), go to the "action board"
    to send free faxes to your state representative.
    They are all typed up and ready to go, you just need to click your mouse to send.

    June 20, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  7. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    DEPRAVITY IS GOOD FOR AMERICA

    "The foundation of our national policy will be laid
    in the pure and immutable principles of private morality;
    the propitious smiles of Heaven
    can never be expected on a nation that disregards
    the eternal rules of order and right
    which Heaven itself has ordained"
    George Washington, First Inaugural, April 30 1789

    June 20, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  8. Rino 1

    We need to rename the Supreme Court, The Regular Court With Extra Cheese there is nothing supreme about them. Americans are being over regulated and for the past few decades our rights to effect change in the US has dwindled to almost nothing. The push is for more governement control and less oversight, even though you would never get them to admit it. What needs to happen is we vote the incumbents out of office (all of them when their current term is up) and remove the supreme court and appoint persons that will toss out all of the fivolous BS that comes before them and quit wasting time and money. Remove the corporations are people attitude and start demanding true action instead of letting our government continually divide us and then do nothing and blaim the other side. We desever better representation!

    June 20, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  9. Tim

    Easy – Declaring the unconstitutional Obamacare mess as constitutional – major fail.

    June 20, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  10. john roach

    Gay should have no rights .its against. god law he made man and women. they should get nothing. .

    June 20, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  11. glorydays

    The Supreme court has succumbed to that age old jinx of human beings taking it over.

    June 20, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  12. Ar45

    Any decision is good decision as long as they are not ambiguous.
    9-0, 8-1 majority may assure that.
    SC judges should set aside their political ideology and stick to the Costitution.

    June 20, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  13. Pete

    It's hilarious how when these justices were questioned during confirmation hearing being hired as SCOTUS and how they acted so unbiased,nonpartisan but after Pres.Obama was inaugerated that concept went to hell in a hand basket didn't it!!The only difference was Justice Roberts siding on a 5-4 vote on the legality of the ACA bill which turned heads not only of republicans thinking they had it in the bag because of a majority vote but they saw something not seen before since again Pres.Obamas inaugeration in sensibility,nonpartisanship going against his own partys agenda of dismantling the ACA bill which in all truth will eventually help this country against all the rantings that republicans cry about!!Remember republicans many parts of that bill are republican created so when you rant about the ACA bill you rant against your own partys reps,happy trails republicans the party of NO nothings!!

    June 20, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  14. kevin

    This is why the Justices don't get elected. Could you imagine the lack of credibility the court would have if it was more beholden to public opinion?
    And people get upset when the result isn't fair....to them. A fair result usually makes a lot of people unhappy. Usually those who had greater power or privileges before fairness was imposed.

    June 20, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  15. scarf

    The Supreme Court is little more than the third house of Congress. They know exactly how they're going to vote when they decide which cases to accept. They let their opinions be known during arguments before the court. Then the majority spends the next several months combing through law books looking for legal justification for their biased opinions. I may have to respect the law as interpreted by the Supreme Court, but I don't have to respect the Court.

    June 20, 2013 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  16. eric

    If you think the SCOTUS is great, just remember citizens united. And how about reducing their appointments from a life term to 30 years or so.

    June 20, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  17. AB

    This is an absurd, imprudent, and unhelpful poll. Most Americans have no idea what SCOTUS does, why or how it decides rules in the way it does, nor the legal context or impact of its decisions. Legal academics and practitioners spend entire careers trying to figure out SCOTUS opinions mean, whereas a poll like this suggests that the proper means for gauging the court's success is to subject its holdings to a public up or down vote, which will be informed primarily by the policy implications of the decisions, perhaps which justices voted which way, and likely little else. Polls like this simply further degrade and muddle the public's idea of the proper role of the court by implicitly suggesting that it is an institution that should be focused on policy outcomes and swayed by public opinion. Thanks CNN for further contributing to the polarization and dumbing down of our governmental and political dialogue.

    June 20, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  18. Buddy

    The Supreme Court justices are as much or more ideologue politicians as our official politicians are. The only difference is they are "untouchable" politicians with a lifetime job. They are the true rulers of America.

    June 20, 2013 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  19. str8t69

    Why are conservatives skeptical of the SCOTUS? Because they did approve Obamacare which will cost us tons of money, it will contain death pannels, and a person will have a long wait to see a Dr. Oh, It is a good thing for the 11 million illegal aliens. Or as Obama puts it, "undocumemted immigrants".

    June 20, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  20. TheRationale

    Affirmative action is intrinsically racist. Switch the terms "white" and "black" (turned away from school because she was black) and people will gasp and tag you as a racist. Anyone who doesn't do the same when the colors are switched is a hypocrite.

    June 20, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  21. roro

    I disapprove of the job SCOTUS is doing because they're too politically motivated. They're supposed to be impartial, but they definitely ARE NOT. Some have even attended obviously biased conferences and made obviously biased speeches. It's truly despicable.

    June 20, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  22. truth hurts but reality bites

    The rulling allowing cities to take a person's property for no reason other than it could give cities higher tax revenues was a total fiasco. It was the start of these insane decisions towards communal betterment at the expense of personal freedom. I expect it will only downhill from here. The individual will not matter, the hive must benefit. Welcome to the United Borg States.

    June 20, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  23. Data Driven

    @AB,

    Great, great post. You spared me the trouble.

    June 20, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  24. Jerry

    The US Supreme Court is NOW a BIGGER joke than Obama's fibbing. How shameful!!!

    June 20, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  25. roro

    Concerning the Voting Rights Act under consideration by the court: not only do we need to CONTINUE this program, there are several states that should be ADDED to the list. Have we forgotten the last few elections where voter suppression ran rampant, and voting rights have been attacked? Perhaps the act could be updated, but certainly not eliminated. And don't forget that these states HAVE THE ABILITY TO OPT OUT if they've been behaving themselves.

    June 20, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
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