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. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    "First, the Arizona law required that ID be presented at the polling place. I am not aware of the AZ law having anything to do with voter registration."
    You are wrong. Go and read it. The Arizona Law that was struck down by the SCOTUS called for ID to be shown in order to REGISTER to vote... your entire arguement is nullified.

    June 20, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  2. Ferathka

    Debbie....those are my thoughts exactly, good job!!

    June 20, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  3. LBLA

    I just don't understand why the Supreme Court is so opinionated

    June 20, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  4. Fair is Fair


    Looking at the responses to this article, I wonder if we would have ever gotten a constitution written and gotten our act together to kick the British out. We are a DIVIDED nation. It is not that we are diverse or a melting pot anymore we are becoming polarized and intolerant and angry with each other.
    The good men who wrote the constitution were not beholden to special interest groups to fund their re-elections. Thomas Jefferson warned about the formation of politcal parties... he, as usual, was right.

    June 20, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  5. Former GOP

    .....Have you noticed that EVERY ISSUE the Radical Right screams UNCONSTITUTIONAL................ UP HEALD by the conservative stacked SCOTUS......
    .................LEARN SOMETHING RADICAL FOX WATCHERS...............

    June 20, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  6. rudy espinoza

    We all deserve to be brought into account. It is very sad that an institution of supposed brilliance and balanced judgement has been ultimately corrupted on disrespect to babies death by abortion and the unnatural behavior of the dislodged in their sexual identity. Balanced towards the sanctity of the family has been treated as disposable human matter by the all liberal supreme court. (It is is with my upmost respect to the institution itself that cannot use capital letters in the wording of it). We casted God out of all our institutions, we are now seeing the results across all society strata. I am afraid that just like the frog in the cold water of the skillet beig cooked alive, cannot distinguish the water temperature due to its cold blood biology, we too as a nation be going ashtray and sadly, led by the supreme court ultimately.

    June 20, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  7. Ge

    Screw the courts.

    June 20, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  8. rker321

    Tou mean to say that the little kings of the USA are not liked by many? These people hold more power than many rulers do in other countries.

    June 20, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  9. Dave

    Bush vs. Gore 2000
    Citizens United vs. FEC

    The court's reputation will be next to impossible to recover based on these two decisions alone.

    June 20, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  10. ialsoagree

    @Fair is Fair

    "Proposition 200, the "Arizona Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act," was an Arizona state initiative passed in 2004 that basically requires: (a) persons to provide proof of citizenship to register to vote; (b) voters to present a photo identification before receiving a ballot at the polling place; and (c) state and local agencies to verify the identity and eligibility, based on immigration status, of applicants for non-federally mandated public benefits."

    Note (b): "voters to present a photo identification before receiving a ballot at the polling place"

    June 20, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  11. Lampoonist

    I thought the issue in Hollingsworth was whether California's state constitution be, which requires a 2/3 vote to amend, could be overridden by a State Proposition, which only requires a 50% + 1 majority.

    In California the voters amended their constitution by a 2/3 vote that made same sex marriage illegal.

    Then the State Supreme Court ruled the amendment unconstitutional.

    Then the voters passed Proposition 8, a simple majority measure, that reinstated the unconstitutional amendment back into the constitution.

    So this upcoming ruling is not whether gay marriage is legal in California, but whether its constitution can be changed by a simple majority vote. The ruling will apply to any issue added to its constitution, not just gay marriage.

    The net effect will be, however, to make gay marriage legal again until someone writes a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage that passes muster before the California Supreme Court.

    June 20, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  12. Robert Holt

    There is another “Supreme Court”. One that is truly supreme. It is not like man’s Supreme Court where some of the judges say one thing and some say another, about the same case. “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” Revelation 20:11,12.

    June 20, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  13. We'll be alright....

    the court made a big mistake when it took up the bush v gore case....the courts reputation may be damaged irreparably by it's decision although I certainly hope this error in judgement can be overcome. The court cannot be seen as partisan in any of it's decisions and maintain the confidence of the masses...

    June 20, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  14. thelastindependent

    Sure doing better than Congress.

    June 20, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  15. Fair is Fair


    @Fair is Fair

    "Proposition 200, the "Arizona Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act," was an Arizona state initiative passed in 2004 that basically requires: (a) persons to provide proof of citizenship to register to vote; (b) voters to present a photo identification before receiving a ballot at the polling place; and (c) state and local agencies to verify the identity and eligibility, based on immigration status, of applicants for non-federally mandated public benefits."

    Note (b): "voters to present a photo identification before receiving a ballot at the polling place"
    AND if they had to present a photo ID to REGISTER, they would have such ID to vote.

    June 20, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  16. We'll be alright....

    @Robert Holt: Amen....

    June 20, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  17. joet

    The Court is, and always has been, tilted one way or the other, yet overall has seemed to function as intended. The fact the poll appear to be fairly equally split (except for the conservatives, who are never happy unless God has deemed it so) on how the Court is functioning tells me that on balance its functioning as intended. Unlike our elected officals, these individuals are voting on how they interpret the Constitution, not for what new law or regulation the PAC that got them elected needs. We may not like everything they do, but they certainly appear to funciton better than the other branches of government.

    June 20, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  18. John P. Tarver

    When SCotUS stopped Al Gore's civil rights violation in Florida I knew they still cared about the law

    June 20, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  19. Larry L

    The "Citizen's United" ruling made me lose all faith in the U.S. Supreme Court. The conservative members (less Chief Justice Roberts – to some extent) interpret the law the way they'd "like it to be"... Scalia is simply a right-wing radical.

    June 20, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  20. Ol' Yeller

    @Robert Holt- Unfortunately the Supreme Court they are talking about here is real and not a fictional court of one All Supreme Being passing judgement on everyone from the book of, blah, blah, blah... . Given that Judge's record for making wise and solid choices I might wish to take my chance with these 9 bozo's should I ever placed in the position to be judged... They only make terrible decisions for a few decades, your guy is forever (I mean, in your reality, He is).

    June 20, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  21. DE

    It's a conservative dominated court, why are repuglicans so dissatisfied?

    June 20, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  22. Ol' Yeller

    @Tarver- The only people's civil rights that got violated by the Gore v. bush was the majority of the American voters. And then all those people in the WTC. And then all our troops dying for no bid Haliburton contracts. And then the 100's of thousands of civilian deaths in Iraq. And then... hey, that Osama Bin Laden guy kinda' got a good deal out of it. He got to live a free man for another 10 years. win gnut

    June 20, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  23. Dano

    News flash: the country is split on nearly everything these days.

    June 20, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  24. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    AND if they had to present a photo ID to REGISTER, they would have such ID to vote.
    Didn't they change it by adding a proof of citizenship requirement at the polling place?

    New York has a very simple and effective system to prevent voter fraud at polling places. They have books that you must sign at the polling places. A copy of your signature when you registered to vote is in the book, too, so that they can compare them. The signature copy is, of course, hidden from you when you sign in to vote. No photo ID needed, just a proof of address so that they can have you sign the correct book, which contains the address used when you registered to vote.

    You can't vote twice. You can't vote if you don't sign. You're subject to arrest if the signature does not match.

    June 20, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  25. bombastus

    Historians will note this Supreme Court for the Citizens United decision. This is the worst decision since Dred Scott back in 1857. The rest of this stuff going on now is of minor significance compared to turning loose the flow of money into the political system.

    June 20, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
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