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Supreme Court Update

Voters Give Supreme Court High Marks

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Voters are feeling better about the U.S. Supreme Court than they have in several years.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 40% of Likely U.S. Voters now think the Supreme Court is doing a good or excellent job. Those are the highest positive findings in nearly four years. Just 15% rate the high court’s performance as poor, down dramatically from last summer and the lowest finding in regular surveying since May 2010. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Last June after the Supreme Court’s rulings upholding Obamacare and gay marriage, positive ratings for the court jumped to a recent high of 38%. At the same time, those giving the court poor marks climbed to 33%, the highest negative finding in surveying since November 2006.

However, attitudes about the ideological leanings of the court haven’t changed. Consistent with surveying for years are the 33% of voters who believe the Supreme Court in political terms is too liberal versus 24% who say it’s too conservative. Another 33% view the court politically speaking as about right.

The unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia last Saturday has set off a political battle over who should get to nominate his replacement. Only 27% of voters think it’s even somewhat likely that the Republican–controlled Senate will confirm any candidate President Obama nominates to replace Scalia.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on February 15-16, 2016 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.

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton seemed receptive recently to naming Obama to the Supreme Court if she is elected to succeed him this fall. Most voters disapprove of putting the president on the high court.

Women and those under 40 are more positive about the Supreme Court’s performance than men and older voters are.

Fifty percent (50%) of Democrats rate the high court’s job performance as good or excellent, a view shared by only 34% of Republicans and 36% of voters not affiliated with either major party.

Most GOP voters (55%) consider the Supreme Court too liberal, but just 15% of Democrats and 30% of unaffiliateds agree. Democrats are more likely to consider the court too conservative.

Among voters who believe the Senate should reject or refuse to consider any Supreme Court nomination made by Obama, 67% feel the court is too liberal now. Among those who think the Senate should not block Obama’s nominee, 40% say the high court is too conservative, while 41% think it’s about right politically.

Most voters have long believed the Supreme Court justices have their own political agenda.

Following the Supreme Court’s controversial rulings on the health care law and gay marriage, 33% of voters said states should have the right to ignore federal court rulings if their elected officials disagree with them. Twenty-six percent (26%) believe the president 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.

Thirty-one percent (31%) think it is more important for government to operate efficiently than it is to preserve our constitutional system of checks and balances.  Nearly twice as many (59%) place more importance on maintaining checks and balances.

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, but presidents of both parties have complained over the years about the challenges of getting things done in such a system.

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.

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

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