CNN Poll: Judging the Supreme Court
June 20th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
7 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. Richard Long

    The Sipreme Court was established to maintain a system of checks and balances between Congress and the President. Now... they are just pawns in the big political game in DC..

    June 20, 2013 06:13 am at 6:13 am |
  2. Jen

    How can they possibly be doing a good job when they allow illegals to vote? That is the most ridiculous ruling in years. I have to identify myself at every traffic stop and you don't have to prove your identity to vote??? Maybe the nine of them need to live in the real world instead of just hiring the illegals to mow their grass and clean their homes.

    June 20, 2013 06:15 am at 6:15 am |
  3. Kyle

    CNN has a very lose definition of "breaking news".

    June 20, 2013 06:15 am at 6:15 am |
  4. Kyle


    June 20, 2013 06:16 am at 6:16 am |
  5. Jason

    I haven't approved of the Supreme Court since they stole the 2000 election. There was a Constitutional method for solving a disputed election but they chose to go their own way then call it a 'non-precedent setting' ruling. My rear. What we have are 9 unelected people in non reviewable jobs screwing with the lives of every American. Thomas should resign. Allito needs to be resign and Scalia should be struck by lightening the man is so cruel.

    June 20, 2013 06:16 am at 6:16 am |
  6. scott smiley

    How is this breaking news?

    June 20, 2013 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  7. king

    after the supreme court devastated our democracy by making big corporations a citizen, making them compete against the average Joe, and allowing them to spend their billions to pick who they wanna in the citizen united case. i had lost all respect and admiration for the court. but when a conservative judge stood up for the people. going against his lunatic right winged fringe, that none respect i had was dampened. judge Roberts acted like a by-partisan judge that day, and put his nation first, and that is more than i say for some of his other backward comrades.

    June 20, 2013 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  8. Wizard Fan

    Well, at least 48% doesn't understand the law or how it works. It's a good thing the Supreme Court is appointed for life so they can do their jobs rather than being slaves to polls. Look at how well the Executive and Legislative Branch function as purely functions of polls.

    This article and poll, really, are a waste of time.

    June 20, 2013 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  9. Cindy

    I used to have tons of confidence in the courts, but lately, that has changed. With the barrage of assaults against women's rights by republicans, I feel very threatened. I feel very threatened that republican men are trying to take away my rights to manage my own body. Also, with the power of corporations so strong in our political system, and Monsanto being protected while they are killing all of our bees, well, its getting scary.

    June 20, 2013 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  10. Otkon

    Breaking news would be when the citizens of a given country actually like and/or trust their government.

    June 20, 2013 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  11. millarddjr

    My perception of the court started to shift with the Connecticut Eminent Domain case a few years back. It seems like more and more the court is saying that "Yes, the Constitution guarantees you these rights, but you can't have them ALL the time!"

    June 20, 2013 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  12. Marie MD

    As much as I think some of the justices are old farts, he court is looking at the law and not politics as they make their decisions.
    The lite paul and Canadian born cross are completely nuts when they ask to sue themselves!

    June 20, 2013 06:30 am at 6:30 am |
  13. henry2000

    The court fails as guardian of the Constitution.

    June 20, 2013 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  14. Andyc1110

    This survey is evidence of the wisdom of our founding fathers. The opinion of the populace should not matter to the Supreme Court Justices. Their job is to ensure that we stay in line with the constitution regardless of the transitory political leanings of the masses.

    June 20, 2013 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  15. MightyMoo

    I'm still not happy with what the court did to American Politics with Citizens United. Not happy at all.

    June 20, 2013 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  16. Andyc1110

    This survey is evidence of the wisdom of our founding fathers. Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life to avoid the pressures associated with trying to please the politically fickle masses.

    June 20, 2013 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  17. Jaggar

    Ruling against upholding laws that are already in place may be why people disapprove. States are simply asking people to show ID before they vote so non-citizens or illegals do not vote. The supreme courts decision that supports not allowing states to request ID is ridiculous. Everyone has to have some form of ID with their picture on it and only people who want to cheat the system don't like showing ID. The supreme court is too liberal and that is why Obama choose his cronies for the job.

    June 20, 2013 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  18. JRJ

    They are selling out the people in decision after decision. The worst group in history.

    June 20, 2013 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  19. uconj

    how can we believe cnn polls? you are bought by the gov. just like flt 800. the white house needs to be cleaned out n fresh faces put there

    June 20, 2013 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  20. Michael

    1) Affirmative Action – I'm white and a total supporter of total and equal access. Perhaps the best approach would be for ALL references to gender and "race" (a misnomer since we're ALL of the Human Race) be removed from any and all applications. That way, candidates must stand on their accomplishments (grades, etc) ... gender and "race" would not enter the equation.
    2) Voting Rights – Equality across the board. No state, county, city, etc., has the right to refuse access or make a person's right to vote illegal or burdensome.
    3) Same Sex Marriage – Equality across the board. I have two gay nephews and they should be allowed the same rights and privileges and "straight" persons. That includes medical care, the mentioned estate taxes ... everything. Nobody has the right to shove their morals onto anyone else, regardless. "Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you." Too often, that wisdom is overlooked by those that should pay closest heed to it ...

    June 20, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  21. Porky Rottenham

    The Supreme Court has been a major violator of the spirit of our Constitution since 1988.

    June 20, 2013 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  22. Walter

    Once again a sign of how divide the country is....on everything. How much longer are we going to continue this charade of be a group of "united" states. There is absolutely nothing united about us anymore.

    June 20, 2013 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  23. Denise

    GOP is all about "state" rights. Of course, there was one huge exception to this mantra in the 2000 general election. Imagine the election coming down to a large state whose governor just happened to be the brother of one of the dudes running!

    June 20, 2013 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  24. Kate

    Dear CNN – this is not news. The Supreme Court doesn't write its opinions to gain the nation's approval ("please, everyone, like us!") – they analyze the law, which requires an understanding of what the law is. Has 52% of the country's population suddenly gotten a JD?

    June 20, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  25. GI Joe

    The case of Shelby vs. Holder needs to go in Holder's favor. Have you ever even been to Alabama? They are almost as bad about allowing blacks to vote (especially around Birmingham) as South Carolina.


    June 20, 2013 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
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