Poll Says U.S. Supreme Court Decides Based On Politics, With Court's Approval at 44%

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76% believe current Supreme Court justices allow personal/political views to decide the cases; only 13% believed Court’s decisions were based on legal analysis.

[As I See It]

Politics, more than legal analysis, dictate how U.S. Supreme Court justices decide cases, a recent poll says.

A New York Times/CBS poll asked whether Supreme Court cases were decided by legal analysis or personal/political bias. With 76% believing the current Supreme Court justices allow personal/political views to decide the cases, only 13% believed Court’s decisions were based on legal analysis.

Of the 976 persons surveyed, only 44% believe the Court was doing a good job. While 60% reject the idea of life terms for U.S. Supreme Court justices and feel it is a “bad thing” because life tenure gives justices too much power.

The poll indicates the country remains divided about healthcare reform. With 37% responding that the Affordable Care Act goes too far in reforming health care, 27% believe it does not go far enough, and 25% believe the reforms are just about right.

When asked how the U.S. Supreme Court should rule on the Affordable Care Act 41% would have the Court overturn the entire act while 21% would uphold it and 27% would overturn just the provision mandating every individual acquire health insurance says the survey. Although 40% of those polled said they voted for President Barack Obama 48% disapprove of the act. More Republicans disagreed with ACA than Democrats supported it.

Most of those polled, 55%, believe the justices will decide the Affordable Care case based on personal or political beliefs, not legal analysis.

Only 15% of those polled approve of the way Congress is handling its job. However, Congress is accustomed to low ratings. The approval rating of 44% for the U.S. Supreme Court is its lowest in 25 years. Certain decisions by the Court have raised concerns about political allegiances trumping legal objectivity.

In 2000, the Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore ultimately decided the presidency in favor of the Republican candidate, George W. Bush. In 2010, the Citizens United decision recognized free speech rights for corporations allowing them to influence political campaigns through financial contributions and media advertisements.  

When polled about the Court’s upcoming ruling in the Arizona immigration case 52% supported giving local police the power to detain anyone unable to provide documents verifying their legal status in the country.

Although African-Americans were 12% and Latinos 13% of those polled their numbers were not large enough to accurately present their specific opinions.

Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, an Associate Professor of Constitutional Law at John Jay College in New York City, is author of “Race, Law, and American Society: 1607 to Present” and “The U.S. Constitution: An African-American Context,” and a journalist covering the U.S. Supreme Court.

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