CNN Poll: Judging the Supreme Court
June 20th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
10 years 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.
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. CaliforniaAc

    Elections matter; the party in power (executive power) gets to prime the pump- SO VOTE!

    June 20, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  2. DJ Reality

    Polls are okay I guess. However I am in charge of me and how I vote. Polls just tell me what others think and that's it. I make my own choices and vote my conscience.

    June 20, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  3. Bob

    The current Corrupt Reich Wing Court will never have my respect.

    Roberts lied to the Senate to get appointed, Alito is just a moutpiece for Riech Wing trash, and Thomas is a disgrace to the legal profession. Scalia is just a lunatic.

    June 20, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  4. DustyOnes

    The Court is too Liberal. They need to concentrate on the Constitution and the meanings set forth by the founding fathers. We do not need an activist court.

    June 20, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  5. orrball

    you tell me the last time they made a good for people decision Obamacare is yet to be determined. voter ide is across the board you can not do anything with out an ide you can not drive, drink, cash a check, get a loan, rent a car , go into an airport, but to vote these ideates think you do not need an ide . the people we vote for handle our money. what a joke

    June 20, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  6. Barrack Hussein

    Most of the liberals on the high court are just plain high on something.

    June 20, 2013 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  7. phillip barker

    The SCOTUS has historically assumed that Congress, and the whatever current administration is in office, understands the Constitution, and therefore are hesitant to overturn bad laws, or Executive Orders. The SCOTUS also uses prior case law to rule on current issues...disregarding the fact that "prior rulings" may be flawed. This is a historic issue dating back to the beginnings of our Nation. I'm not sure how to correct it!!!!

    June 20, 2013 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  8. Gloria Popke

    Some need to be fired. It should not be a life time job. two 4 year terms and out. And anyone who says to another country, our constitution is no good. Don't follow it making yours. Our country is based on the Constitution and Bill of Rights and that is what the Supreme Court is supposed to be upholding. Fire her.!!!!!

    June 20, 2013 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  9. Michael A Ruzicho

    I think we still need more diversity on the bench. It is getting better.

    June 20, 2013 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  10. Michael A Ruzicho

    We need the Court to rule in REALITY.............

    June 20, 2013 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  11. Michael Benjamin

    The average American has no idea how this court functions.

    June 21, 2013 01:48 am at 1:48 am |
  12. Barb

    This court, Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, are the four worst justices ever appointed, and they were all appointed by republican presidents...think about it.

    June 21, 2013 04:40 am at 4:40 am |
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