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Supreme Court Update

43% Say U.S. Justice System Unfair to Most Americans

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Americans are now evenly divided when asked if the U.S. justice system is fair.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 42% of Likely U.S. Voters think the justice system is fair to most Americans, down just a point from last July but the lowest level of confidence in nearly four years of regular surveying. Just as many (43%) say the justice system is not fair to most Americans, up two points from the previous survey and a new high. Fifteen percent (15%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Only 33% think the justice system is fair to poor Americans, while 49% disagree. Eighteen percent (18%) are not sure. That's also similar to views last year but a more pessimistic assessment than was found from 2010 to 2012.

A plurality (46%) still thinks the U.S. justice system is fair to black and Hispanic Americans, but 36% disagree. Another 18% are undecided. This is unchanged from last year and down slightly from earlier surveys. 

A wide racial difference of opinion on this question remains. Eighty percent (80%) of blacks consider the justice system unfair to black and Hispanic Americans, while 51% of whites and 48% of other minority voters view the system as fair to these minorities.

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The national telephone survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports on March 20-21, 2013. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 2 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Fieldwork for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology

Only 33% of voters believe most judges in their rulings follow the letter of the law.  Fifty-eight percent (58%) of Americans trust a jury more than a judge to determine the guilt or innocence of someone accused of criminal behavior.

Twenty-eight percent (28%) of voters now think the Supreme Court is doing a good or excellent job, while just as many (26%) rate their performance as poor.

By comparison, just seven percent (7%) think Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Sixty-four percent (64%) say Congress is doing a poor job. As for the third branch of government, President Obama continues to earn daily job approval ratings in the negative mid- to high teens as he has in for most of his presidency. 

In political terms, 34% of voters think the Supreme Court is too liberal, down from 37% in December  and the lowest since December 2012.  Twenty-six percent (26%) think the Supreme Court is too conservative, and just as many (27%) say it’s about right politically. Thirteen percent (13%) are not sure.

Republicans are more critical of the high court's performance than Democrats and unaffiliated voters are. GOP voters strongly believe the court is too liberal, while Democrats tend to see it as too conservative or just about right. Among unaffiliateds, 34% say the court is too liberal, 22% too conservative and 31% about right politically.

Democrats are more likely than the others to consider the justice system unfair to most Americans and to poor, black and Hispanic Americans. 

The Supreme Court yesterday heard a case in which two businesses argued that for religious reasons they should not be required to provide health insurance with free contraceptives for their women employees. Half of voters agree with that position.

Twenty-one percent (21%) of Americans believe the bigger problem for the U.S. law enforcement and legal system is that too many innocent people are arrested, but three times as many (61%) think the bigger problem is that too many criminals are set free.

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

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