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Support Grows for States to Ignore the Federal Courts

Friday, July 03, 2015

Following last week’s controversial U.S. Supreme Court rulings on Obamacare and gay marriage, voters believe more strongly that individual states should have the right to turn their backs on the federal courts.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 33% of Likely U.S. Voters now believe that states should have the right to ignore federal court rulings if their elected officials disagree with them. That’s up nine points from 24% when we first asked this question in February.  Just over half (52%) disagree, down from 58% in the earlier survey. Fifteen percent (15%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Perhaps even more disturbing is that the voters who feel strongest about overriding the federal courts – Republicans and conservatives - are those who traditionally have been the most supportive of the Constitution and separation of powers. During the Obama years, however, these voters have become increasingly suspicious and even hostile toward the federal government.

Fifty percent (50%) of GOP voters now believe states should have the right to ignore federal court rulings, compared to just 22% of Democrats and 30% of voters not affiliated with either major party. Interestingly, this represents a noticeable rise in support among all three groups.

Fifty percent (50%) of conservative voters share this view, but just 27% of moderates and 15% of liberals agree.

Voters are closely divided in their opinions of both of last week’s major rulings. Negative views of the Supreme Court are at their highest level in nearly nine years of regular surveying. Positive opinions are also up to a less dramatic three-year high.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on June 30-July 1, 2015 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Earlier this year, 26% of voters told Rasmussen Reports that President Obama should have the right to ignore federal court rulings if they are standing in the way of actions he feels are important for the country. Forty-three percent (43%) of Democrats shared this belief, while 81% of Republicans and 67% of unaffiliated voters disagreed.

The more a voter approves of Obama’s performance, the more likely he or she is to say that states should not have the right to ignore the federal courts.

Higher income voters are more likely to oppose letting states ignore federal court rulings than those who earn less.

Support for ignoring the federal courts is up among most demographic groups, however.

Most voters have long believed that the Supreme Court justices have their own political agenda,  and they still tend to feel that that agenda is more liberal than conservative.

A plurality (47%) of voters continues to believe the federal government has too much influence over state governments, and 54% think states should have the right to opt out of federal government programs that they don’t agree with.  Even more (61%) think states should have the right to opt out of federally mandated programs if the federal government doesn’t help pay for them.

The Declaration of Independence, the foundational document that Americans honor on the Fourth of July, says that governments derive their authority from the consent of the governed, but just 25% believe that to be true of the federal government today.

Only 20% now consider the federal government a protector of individual liberty.  Sixty percent (60%) see the government as a threat to individual liberty instead.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only. 

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