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Voters See Less Politics on Supreme Court and Want It That Way

Friday, March 06, 2020

Voters are less convinced these days that the U.S. Supreme Court is driven by politics despite Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s recent accusation that some of her fellow justices have a pro-Trump bias. But voters still strongly believe the members of the high court should keep their political views to themselves.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 48% of Likely U.S. Voters think most Supreme Court justices have their own political agenda. This finding, however, has run as high as 65% and is the lowest level of criticism in over 10 years of surveying. Thirty-seven percent (37%) say the justices generally remain impartial, a new high. Fifteen percent (15%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Just 24% feel that Supreme Court justices should express their political opinions in public. Sixty-six percent (66%) disagree, saying that raises questions about the impartiality of the high court. These findings are little changed from four years ago when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg publicly criticized then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Ninety-three percent (93%) of voters say the type of Supreme Court justices a candidate would appoint is important to their vote for president this year, with 68% who say it’s Very Important.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted February 26-27, 2020 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.

Last October as it began its current session, voter approval of the Supreme Court remained higher than it has been in years. Voters also clearly felt that President Trump has moved the court to the right with the two new justices he has nominated.

Democrats (55%) feel more strongly than Republicans (46%) and voters not affiliated with either major party (40%) that most justices have their own political agenda. But most voters in all three groups are in general agreement that Supreme Court justices who express their political views publicly raise questions about the court’s impartiality.

Democrats (76%) rate a candidate’s likely Supreme Court choices as Very Important to their presidential vote, compared to 67% of Republicans and 59% of voters not affiliated with either major party.

Voters under 40 are more likely than their elders to think most justices have their own political agenda and to believe the justices should express their political opinions in public. Seniors attach the most importance to a candidate’s likely Supreme Court nominees when it comes to how they will vote for president.

Among those for whom the Supreme Court is a Very Important voting issue, 53% think most justices have their own political agenda.

Voters are largely divided along party lines when asked if Trump should fill any U.S. Supreme Court vacancy this year and whether former President Obama should be considered for the job.

Democrats, increasingly worried about the Supreme Court tilting to the right, have been talking about changes in its overall makeup. Most voters like the idea of term-limiting the justices but draw the line at adding more members to the Supreme Court.

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

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