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. Al-NY,NY

    the haters will not be happy when they learn their homophobic agenda is furhter being eroded. Get over it losers

    June 20, 2013 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    There is a demographic out there that is just going absolutely insane because they woke up one day and realized that the world that they thought they lived is gone. They want to think that it happened overnight, with the election of Barack Obama, when in reality it only served as alarm clock. It woke them up to reality, and they didn't like it.

    Now they're trying to return to the good life that they thought they were living. They want to overturn voting rights, civil rights, abortion rights, even the right to afford the basics in life like food, education and health care. They even hate government because to them government caused all of the disorder in their former, well ordered lives.

    These are the people who have no wish for government or governing. They simply want to rule.

    June 20, 2013 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  3. Fair is Fair

    Know what's funny about this poll? I'd wager ten large that 60% of the respondents could not name ONE of the justices, and probably just as many don't know how many justices there are. Polls of this nature are totally meaningless.

    June 20, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  4. frank landa

    Of course minorities want a preference they do not deserve. Everyone wants a break. The courts have been infested by activists who are destroying our society. Roberts will be remembered as the one who destroyed the nation in years to come. He bent to pressure to hide something he did not want exposed. Here now we all pay for his weakness.

    June 20, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  5. Ray E. (Georgia)

    What is amazing is the justices all read the same constutition and come up with different conclusions. Most of the time they get it right but sometimes drop the ball. Obama Care should have been tossed out on it's ear but by slight of hand it was given legal status. With no one following the Constutition anymore why do we need a Supreme Court? Rome is burning. Does anyone care?

    June 20, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  6. christina knight

    I give the Robert's Court a solid 'F'.

    June 20, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  7. ThatsRight

    Seriously? A poll of just over 1,000 people is really considered "55% of Americans in favor of same-sex marriage?" Who exactly is ORC International? Furthermore, I feel that the term "a CNN/ORC International survey" gives portrays a false sense of it possibly being a US/International survey. Should not the more accurate phrasing of "a survey conducted by CNN/ORC International" have been used??

    June 20, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  8. Rick McDaniel

    When the court flung open the door to voter fraud in America, by illegal immigrants, they committed TREASON!

    That is exactly what they did, in their decision.

    June 20, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  9. Shodori

    What the supreme court being rated how well they do by people with a certain political view. Of course if they rule in your favor you give them a positive if not they get a negative.

    Most people do not understand how judges work which is why they are not elected in or subject to having to worry about reelection. That way they can actually judge something and not face a recall election on every decision.

    Just because a majority exists in a population does not mean it is the right thing.

    June 20, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  10. gdouglaso polls? How many people out of 1000000 actually have ANY clue regarding the cases they face? Of those 20 individuals, how many have actually read the cogent laws and thought through the legal ramifications? to that one person and ask his/her opinion.

    June 20, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  11. taxedmore

    I am confident that the Supreme Court, on economic issues, will go with whatever makes life easier for the welfare crowd and costs the taxpayers the most.

    June 20, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  12. Swan_50

    The SCOTUS is in a dicey spot. Lack of governance on the Hill has thrust them in the limelight. However; on closer examination, the SCOTUS has limited real power derived from the Constitution. The Constitution does not go so far as to cite the number of Justices or the voting requirements for the Court. All of this comes to us in the form of precedent, or power they took when someone else was weak.

    June 20, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  13. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    I reserve my opinion of the Supreme Court's current actions until the announcement of DOMA, Proposition 8, and college admissions rulings.

    June 20, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  14. Legal Permit to Carry

    Funny how every single day there are thousands of polls conducted, yet never once my life, has anyone ever used me in one. Do they use the same 100 people in every poll? Weak...

    June 20, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  15. WachetAuf

    Scalia is the major reason for mistrust of the Court. Never before has there been such a noisy reactionary on the Court. He behaves like a man drunk with power, a malignant narcissist. His decisions are driven by his lizard brain, engaging in a kind of mental masturbation, listening to no one but his own voice, not the voices who have made this the greatest democracy known to the world; and not to the voice and message of Jesus in spite of the fact that he is a Catholic: a dangerous man, indeed.

    June 20, 2013 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  16. Rudy NYC


    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
    What bothers me the most is how long before those "citizens" start demanding the right to vote. Crying, "Taxation without representation," and other colorful nonsense. It will give the wealthy the ability to vote more than once: once as a person and God knows how many times as a "citizen".

    June 20, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  17. John Ridel

    A "poll of Americans' opinions re the US Sup Ct" is bizarre. Justices are appointed for life for the very reason that the albatross of general public opinions du jour (informed and otherwise) is not conducive to dispassionate or even precedent-based interpretations of the Constitution. If Justices worried about public polls, much of the 1964 Civil Rights Act would have been found unconsitutional. History shows an alarming % of the public are ill informed, biased and childishly influenced by whatever's "hip".

    June 20, 2013 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  18. al

    I am not surprised that conservatives would be less likely to be supportive as they live their entire lives strictly through their politics. Most conservatives I know won't even buy a car until the check in with party headquarters to make sure the one they want is on the approved list.

    June 20, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  19. I, J

    When it does conservative things, it makes conservatives happy. When it does liberal things, it makes liberals happy.

    They would have much more support if they made objective decisions. That went away with Bush v. Gore, when even the court acknowledged in the decision that it was too subjective to be used as precedent.

    June 20, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  20. U.S. Citizen

    Equal Representation and Justice Under the Rule of Law; for everyone?
    Or will these rulings be politically or culturally biased to a Social Doctrine?

    June 20, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  21. Diogenes

    Their decisions have been politically driven for years, so they should be elected by the voters with short terms and no reelections.

    June 20, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  22. Bill

    The creators of the United Socialist States of America? Of course I disapprove.

    June 20, 2013 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  23. patsynomore

    The T-Party 5 on the SCOTUS...SUCK..They only respect Corporations...Human beings,aka We the People,don`t count.

    June 20, 2013 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  24. Perry Mason

    Great. Most people can't name a single Justice. Meaningless poll.

    June 20, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  25. Bow

    I'm confused. You say "nearly seven in ten disapprove of affirmative action" followed by "29% saying they disagree." That sounds like everyone disapproves. Which is the percentage that agrees with affirmative action?

    June 20, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
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