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. Name

    In other area of the law, federal laws trump state why is that not the case here. If then fed bans it why is the state allowed not too. Same with cannibis laws, legal in states that approved it, but fed government still has final say...

    June 20, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  2. BuckFuddy2013

    What's interesting about the Fisher case is that there are no mentions that there were a total of 42 applicants with scores lower than Fisher who got accepted to the school. Of those 42 only 5 were minorities, the other 37 applicants were white. So, basically Fisher and her Conservative backers are saying its fine for AA to help underserving whites get into colleges but they are sick of AA helping minorities. This is racism at its purest form.

    June 20, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  3. Mark

    This is the same branch of government that ruled that slavery was constitutional. Brilliant.

    June 20, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  4. Chris

    Um, the whole point of the Supreme Court is that it's IRREVELANT whether the people like or dislike their opinions. This is why they are not elected officials, but instead appointed for LIFE. They are supposed to be immune to the opinions of the people, and Congress, and the President, and instead they are supposed to focus solely and independently on whether laws are Constitutional. This is ingrained in to the very fabric of the Constitution. Doing a poll to see what people think of the Supreme Court is a useless waste of money.

    June 20, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  5. Andrew

    Geez, you just can't please people. Everyone charging Obama morphed the Court, the judges are biased, blah blah blah. Saying the Supreme Court is just now becoming a political body is bunk because it's always been that way. Even "Marbury v. Madison" was a political decision. The difference between the Court and other government bodies is they at least try to base their decisions on the Constitution (Bush v. Gore excepted). I'm sorry you don't like the Obamacare decision. I don't agree with the logic the Chief Justice used to classify it as a tax, but guess what? IT'S THE LAW OF THE LAND. Cry me a river.

    June 20, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  6. Rudy NYC


    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.
    First of all, illegals are not voting because they shouldn't be able to register in the first place. Besides, what's wrong with presenting your voter registration card. Here in New York, your signature is on file. Again, it all goes back to the voter registration process. Besides, requiring people to go out and purchase state issued photo ID amounts to a poll tax, which is most definitely illegal in any state.

    June 20, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  7. The REAL Truth...

    The current right-leaning SCOTUS has made some terrible decisions – and I don't mean their ruling on ACA.

    Eminent domain (as mentioned by truth hurts but reality bites) is a complete travesty. My neighborhood was the first to suffer under this ruling where a private mall owner caused the loss of 60 homes to expand the mall, all lost under eminent domain as the city council decided that it would increase the tax revenu MORE from the leasing businesses than the homeowners. WRONG!

    Citizens united and corporations are people !! don't even get me started on that!!!!!
    And.. with ACA.. they had no choice but to rule in favor of it. If they had ruled AGAINST ACA, it would have brought into question the legality and existence of the IRS, and any Fed, state or local taxing entity. IOW – pandora's box.

    June 20, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  8. roro

    At str8t69: Are you still hanging on to those "death panels"? You must be a complete idiot to believe such nonsense. And let's wait to judge the program until it's been fully implemented before we make ignorant comments. I bet you still believe Obama is a foreign Muslim as well. Turn off your Faux News and read a paper. Make a decision for yourself before just following Tea Party rants, many of which have been completely false. For instance, while IRS inquiries have shown that there is no connection to the president, crazies like Bachman and Gohmert are standing in front of the Capitol continuing to lie to the people. And pitifully uninformed people like you just lap it up and spread the lies.

    June 20, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  9. Timodeus

    If we are so split on everything, why don't we just split in reality? Seriously let's just stop fighting and live apart. It's time for a divorce America.

    June 20, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  10. The REAL Truth...

    @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.
    I'm sorry that seem to buy into the Foxbot cool-aid so prevalent today. VoterID laws are NOT about stopping illegal voting, it's about voter suppression.. suppresion of those who tend to vote Dem, which is why its such a big deal for Republicans.

    If you do a little research – in any state, pick one, say TX – you will find that voter fraud is non-existent when compared to totat votes. In TX for example, there have been 52 case in the last 25 yrs, with 5 (yes FIVE) convictions. NONE were from illegals, and most were by Republican voters. That and research I've done on other states (it's public record) indicates that less than 0.00001% of ALL votes are fraudulent. In other words, there's no justification for it, and it's a Republican solution looking for a non-existent problem.

    June 20, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  11. Dave Rogers

    So much seems to depend on which party holds the Presidency. If it's a Democrat, Self described conservatives are against war, and generally, mistrustful of the government.

    If it's a Republican, the folks who consider themselves liberal become anti war, and are generally mistrustful of government.

    It's not about what sort of policies anyone might prefer... it's more like a tribal identification thing.. You know, like what logo you'll wear, or what bumper sticker you'll display.

    June 20, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  12. GsusPshdHmtyDmty

    It's frightening to me when reading these comments how uneducated, narrow-minded, and self-righteous people are about our system of government. Their lack of respect is not only offensive, but completely un-American. I certainly don't always agree with the SCOTUS decisions. But I am educated enough to realize that we still have the most incredible form of goverment on the planet and for that I am grateful and supportive. If you don't like our government, don't respect it, want it only YOUR way, then MOVE to a totalitarian society like Taliban or Sharia law or wherever else you think you might be happier. The USA is better off without you.

    June 20, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  13. John P. Tarver

    Justices are appointed for life and this is a silly article. Populism is not in charge of science either.

    June 20, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  14. Inkin

    Too bad we can't recall justice Clarence Thomas.... One of the worst, most biased justices in history.

    June 20, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  15. Sniffit

    Maybe this helps explain the 50/50 split. I don't do probate work much, but I'll never forget watching a very contentious divorce hearing going on while I was waiting my turn before the judge for something else...wife and husband yammering at each other about who should get what, all while their poor attorneys tried to get them under control etc. The judge finally got irritated enough to raise his voice, silencing them, and he told them to go outside of the courtroom and figure it out and then come back in 15 minutes, and if they hadn't figured it out by then he would be deciding who gets what...."and I can tell you right now that, if I make the decision myself, neither of you will be happy with the result, which is what tells me I got it right." Haha!

    They figured it out amongst themselves.

    June 20, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  16. Rudy NYC

    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.
    That's the liberal perspective on the issue. All of the conservatives justices ruled in favor of allowing it to be done. I can't recall if it was Rehnquist or Scalia, but one of the conservative justices who voted in favor had their mountain property in New Hampshire or Vermont seized so that a ski resort could expand. Justice was served.

    June 20, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  17. harry

    Once amnesty is granted the surge will be coming from the south.

    June 20, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  18. wildbill

    Again, we need to get those people out of there and make the peoples goverment.we are sick and tired of them tring to put us in is time we stood up to are bullies,and say no. But the american people are to afraid.if we all say no what would they do?we all have to be one.but idont see that happening.

    June 20, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  19. rs

    I believe the "Citizens United" case was a wakeup call for most Americans that the Court is too Conservative. The last election cycles have proved that with billions of dollars spent by both sides, much of it by "affiliated" groups that made shameless and irresponsinble charges against candidates. Polotics by its very nature is dirty, adding unrestrained cash makes it worse.
    It will be interesting to see how this activist Court rules on the next round of social issues. While it continues to (rightly) shoot down anti-abortion laws, anti-voter laws and anti-civil rights laws, the Conservative justices seem happy with their role telling the losers how to get the decision they want next time (thinking here of the recently tossed voter restriction law in AZ.).

    Simply put- the Court needs balance to make approriate decisions- decisions not based on politics or party.

    June 20, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  20. freedom

    Are these elite few going to be under Obamacare like the rest of the country? Do they live by the laws they decide on for the rest of us? Term limits for these people. No one should have a lifetime appointment! That goes for tenure, too!

    June 20, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  21. A Kickin` Donkey

    The "court" is on the verge of a slippery slope where it loses it`s legitamacy. America is a "center-left" country. We are fiscally conservative and socially liberal in our leanings but the court has been stack [by the GOP] with idealouges that seek to counteract this. Civil rights, Voting rights, fair & equal treatment of blacks, gays, women, latinos, asians -all of that is in our DNA – and when the majority, the powerful or the influential pervert that principle, we EXPECT "the court" to stop it and FIX IT!. But these days, they don`t.

    The fiscal conservatism of the republic IS NOT advanced by allowing corporations [a money grubbing, selfish enterprise by it`s design] to dodge taxes, influence elections, or manipulate geo-political events to start wars as profit making ventures. Money in the hands of people 1st, corporations 2nd. A higher minimum wage transfers wealth from corporations to people who will circulate it. That is good for America. We have a Supreme Court with a business bias; it needs to have a citizen bias.

    June 20, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  22. scarf


    It's frightening to me when reading these comments how uneducated, narrow-minded, and self-righteous people are about our system of government. Their lack of respect is not only offensive, but completely un-American. I certainly don't always agree with the SCOTUS decisions. But I am educated enough to realize that we still have the most incredible form of goverment on the planet and for that I am grateful and supportive. If you don't like our government, don't respect it, want it only YOUR way, then MOVE to a totalitarian society like Taliban or Sharia law or wherever else you think you might be happier. The USA is better off without you.
    I see that you don't like the First Amendment. Maybe YOU should rethink your position.

    June 20, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  23. cm74130

    In my opinion (and I am only an "ordinary" citizen), the Supreme Court has made some important, bad decisions– including a few in the recent past.

    Long histories of strange decisions are associated with States Rights issues. If there is consistency in the Court's decisions in this area, it completely escapes me.

    The long-term history of Second Amendment rulings is inconsistent and shows that the Court is willing to bend laws in ways that amount to rewriting them. The recent ruling in DC v. Heller continues this practice.

    The decision in "Citizens United" might be legally defensible, but it is wrong in terms of the spirit of the Constitution. In general, interpretations of the concept of Corporate Personhood are inconsistent and arcane.

    Too many decisions are made by 5-4, which means the balance was tipped by a single Justice. Furthermore, there is too much political influence in the selection of Justices.

    I think the Supreme Court needs institutional improvements.

    June 20, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  24. A True Conservative

    What a shock! We're divided right down the middle on nearly every issue. You needed a poll to tell you this?

    June 20, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  25. A True Conservative

    rs – anti voter laws? You mean laws that require that you prove that you are a citizen of this country and have the RIGHT to vote? Those laws? Only a liberal mind would see that as anti voter.

    June 20, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
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