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Supreme Court Update

Voters Still Question Supreme Court's Political Biases

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Several major rulings are expected heading into the final month of the U.S. Supreme Court’s current term, including ones on same-sex marriage and President Obama's health care law, but few voters think the court is balanced politically.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only 25% of Likely U.S. Voters consider the Supreme Court’s ideology to be about right. Thirty-five percent (35%) say the high court is too liberal. That’s up from 32% in February and the highest finding since December 2013. Twenty-nine percent (29%) say the court is too conservative, generally consistent with surveys over the past year. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Voters have long tended to view the court as too liberal, but the number who consider it too conservative began to increase last year.

Most voters (55%) also still think the majority of Supreme Court justices have their own political agenda. Just half as many (28%) believe the justices generally remain impartial.

Only 31% think the nation's highest court does a good or excellent job. That’s little changed from February and remains above regular findings since December 2012. Twenty-two percent (22%) rate the high court's performance as poor, the lowest level of criticism since late 2012.

Prior to 2013, positives for the court generally remained in the low to mid-30s since 2011. The last time good or excellent marks for the high court were above 40% was in October 2009. Poor marks for the court hit a high of 30% in June 2013 following controversial rulings on voting rights, affirmative action and same-sex marriage.

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The national telephone survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports on May 25-26, 2015. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Fieldwork for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

One-third of voters still don't think the Supreme Court puts enough limitations on what the federal government can do.

Nearly half (47%) of voters continue to believe that it is fair for a U.S. senator to oppose a high court nominee because of political ideology or judicial philosophy. That’s little changed since December 2013 but down from a high of 56% who felt that way in April 2010. Thirty-eight percent (38%) feel it is not fair for a senator to oppose a nominee because of ideology and philosophy, while 15% are unsure.

The older the voter, the more likely he or she is to think the Supreme Court is too liberal.

Democrats give the high court slightly better ratings than Republicans and voters not affiliated with either major political party do.

Fifty-six percent (56%) of Republicans believe the court is too liberal, while a plurality (46%) of Democrats thinks it is too conservative. Among unaffiliated voters, 35% say the high court is too liberal, while 27% feel it is too conservative.

Republicans feel more strongly than the others that it is fair for a U.S. senator to oppose a high court nominee because of political ideology or judicial philosophy.

Thirty-one percent (31%) of all voters think it is more important for government to operate efficiently than it is to preserve our system of checks and balances. Nearly twice as many (59%) place more importance on maintaining checks and balances. Eleven percent (11%) are undecided. The system of checks and balances between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government was designed by the Founding Fathers to assure that a consensus was achieved before national legislation could be implemented.

Only five percent (5%) rate the executive branch the most important of the three branches of our government, while just as many (6%) feel that way about the judiciary. Thirteen percent (13%) consider the legislative branch the most important. But an overwhelming 74% view all three branches to be of equal importance.

Just 42% of voters think the United States has the best system of justice in the world. Perhaps in part that’s because only 33% believe most judges in their rulings follow the letter of the law.

Most voters still want to make major changes in Obamacare or dump it completely.

Support for gay marriage has fallen to its lowest level in over a year, with voters now almost evenly divided on the issue.

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

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