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Gallup Poll--Americans' Confidence in Supreme Court Declining:

From Hear the Issues (a site I'm not familiar with, so I don't know if it has any angle):

A Gallup poll released on June 21st, 2005 shows that Americans' confidence in the Supreme Court has been declining. Gallup asked Americans to rate their level of confidence in 15 institutions in American society, including the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ranks in the middle of the list, much lower than the military, police, and organized religion, but higher than HMOs, big business, Congress, and organized labor.

Overall, 4 in 10 Americans say they have a great deal (16%) or quite a lot (25%) of confidence in the court. This 41% confidence rating is among the lowest Gallup has ever found for this institution, and it perpetuates a gradual decline in the public's confidence over the past three years.

The story also reports that traditionally Republicans have had greater confidence in the Supreme Court than Democrats ("Republicans and Democrats were not radically different in their confidence with the court from 1973 until 1984, at which point 57% of Republicans and only 44% of Democrats said they were confident in the court."), but that confidence by conservatives has fallen during the past three years, in part because of popularity bump for the Court with conservatives after the 2000 election (or as the article puts it "after the court decision that gave Bush the presidency").

The Conclusion:

The public's current confidence rating in the U.S. Supreme Court is among the lowest that Gallup has found historically. Republicans and Democrats currently show only modest differences in their views of the court -- a much different picture from what Gallup found after the 2000 election controversy when Republicans were much more likely than Democrats to express confidence. Conservatives, moderates, and liberals have roughly the same level of confidence in the court, but since 2000, ratings of the court among conservatives have dropped significantly.

I tried to click through to the Gallup Poll itself to get the primary sources, but this poll seems to be subscriber-only.

A Northwestern Law Student (mail):
Ah, for the simplicity of Michaelmas, Hilary, Easter, and Trinity Terms ...
6.29.2005 5:45pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Given that the Court has expressed little confidence in the American people in the last few decades (though it is quite comfortable with non-Americans), why is this a surprise?
6.29.2005 5:46pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
So, Todd, what's your point? I think it is widely acknowledged that the Supreme Court is more conservative today than it was 20, 30, or 40 years ago. So, I guess this means the public doesn't like a "conservative court."

Also, I can see why you didn't enable comments on your buddy's quotes re Social Security --- they were absurd. Tell the millions of people living off Social Security that it is a "scam." And please explain to me why bonds issued on the "full faith and credit" of the United States are not real assets -- that kind of logic is going to do wonders for the value of the dollar.
6.29.2005 6:02pm
R C Dean (mail):
Greedy:

You are quite incorrect. A defined benefit pension fund operated on the same basis as Social Security would be illegal.

A corporation that withheld money from its employees' paychecks for a pension, but then skimmed off some of that money for other purposes, would be in deep stuff, and any executive who signed off on this would be in personal trouble.

The fact that some of the money withheld from employees went to pay current retirees would make no difference.

Even attempting to paper over the diversion of funds from the pension fund to current operations by putting company paper in the pension fund (essentially what the so-called 'trust fund' consists of) is illegal, because ERISA allows a defined benefit plan to be no more than 10% funded with the employer's own securities.
6.29.2005 6:34pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Greedy,
Actually, in a poll released this week, a plurality indicated that they want a conservative as the next appointment. So, it would seem, the people are dissatisfied with a Court that is not conservative enough.
6.29.2005 6:37pm
Zywicki (mail):
Greedy Clerk:
I wasn't making any point with this post--just calling to attention a story that I hadn't seen and thought that readers might find interesting.
6.29.2005 6:38pm
Steve:
So, is the loss of confidence due to bad acts of the Supreme Court, or is it due to a conservative campaign to delegitimize the Supreme Court? Might be one of those questions that depends on who you ask.

On the Social Security issue, our pension laws, quite rightly, do not assume that a private corporation has the same taxation or borrowing powers as the federal government.
6.29.2005 6:42pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
"So, is the loss of confidence due to bad acts of the Supreme Court, or is it due to a conservative campaign to delegitimize the Supreme Court?"

Gee, I thought it was the Supreme Court's campaign to delegitimize the Constitution as well as majority rule that was the cause of this decline.

First the Court decides that the majority can't be trusted to pass laws, striking down Texas's sodomy law in Lawrence as irrational, and based on the absurd and demonstrably false claim that laws banning homosexual sex did not exist until very recently.

Then in Raich, the same liberal majority decides that if the people don't like the overreach of the Controlled Substances Act, they can always tell their elected representatives to change it. (Unlike the Texas sodomy law, which apparently the majority is powerless to fix.)

The Court decides that political advertising is not Constitutionally protected speech--but virtual child pornography is! Look, if you want to take the ACLU's "all speech is protected" oversimplification, that would at least be consistent. Ahistorical, but consistent. The McConnell decision is one of those reminders that there is no consistency to these decisions.

In Kelo, the majority slavishly follows precedent to confiscate homes from little people for the benefit of a wealthy corporation--but in Lawrence, they decide that the decisions of a cherry-picked set of foreign courts (but not any from the Islamic world) take precedence over their own precedents.

Most recently, they come with a Solomon-splits-the-baby set of decisions where Texas can keep the Ten Commandments on the lawn, but two Kentucky counties can't have them in the courtroom--but the Supreme Court doesn't have to remove them from their building.

Who is making the Supreme Court look bad? Conservatives? Or a Court that seems incapable of following any consistent principle but, "We like our opinions."
6.29.2005 7:11pm
Steve:
I think that proves my point that it depends who you ask.
6.29.2005 7:19pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
"Or a Court that seems incapable of following any consistent principle but, "We like our opinions.""

Untrue. They don't always like their opinions. Look at the contortion Sandra Day had t to resort to after voting in the Bowers majority but then deciding to sign on with Lawrence. Or her denunciation of Kelo but her earlier approval of a plan to redistribute land among private owners in Hawaii. Sorry, can't think of case name for that last one.

The Court's only consitency is its inconsistency.
6.29.2005 7:32pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
"Or a Court that seems incapable of following any consistent principle but, "We like our opinions.""

Untrue. They don't always like their opinions. Look at the contortion Sandra Day had t to resort to after voting in the Bowers majority but then deciding to sign on with Lawrence. Or her denunciation of Kelo but her earlier approval of a plan to redistribute land among private owners in Hawaii. Sorry, can't think of case name for that last one.

The Court's only consitency is its inconsistency.
6.29.2005 7:33pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Hey, I only hit the button once!
6.29.2005 7:33pm
Half Sigma (www):
What percentage of Americans who didn't go to law school actually understand what the Surpreme Court does? One percent maybe?

Whatever the poll shows is what people are told by the media to think.
6.29.2005 8:33pm
Steve:
That's exactly right. If you took a poll on whether people believe the Supreme Court should cite international law in interpreting the Constitution, you would find some number of people who listen to right-wing commentators and say no, and you would find some number of people who listen to left-wing commentators and say yes. But the number of people who would have an independently-developed opinion on the subject would be very small.
6.29.2005 8:52pm
Henry (mail):
I can't believe that no one has mentioned Bush v. Gore. Is it possible that that decision (just maybe) delegitimized the Court a bit, even in the eyes of those who liked the result?
6.29.2005 9:35pm
Steve:
Prof. Zywicki mentioned it in the original posting, although the implication was that Bush v. Gore actually caused Republicans to view the Court as MORE legitimate, with numbers subsequently regressing back to normal levels. It's reasonable to infer that Democrats experienced an opposite effect, although it all serves to suggest that we are measuring not how "legitimate" the Court may be, but to what extent the poll takers liked the Court's body of rulings.

What gets underplayed here is that Republicans had a significantly better view of the Court's legitimacy than did Democrats. One explanation could be that Democratic oxen are gored more often, a result that would probably surprise some.
6.29.2005 9:56pm
Syd (mail):
I think people are having trouble with all arms of the government. It's a great time for cynics.
6.30.2005 1:29am
Kevin:
The majority of people care far more about the result than either the process or the law itself. People only care about whether a justice votes their way, and those who curse the more liberal justices would love them tomorrow if they changed their votes. This applies whether a person is a conservative or a liberal.

This country is split pretty evenly on many of the major social issues, so it's to be expected that the public's view of the Court will be split similarly. Perhaps this was inevitable, because the Court has proven time and time again that it is bound by no rule or logic other than those necessary to achieve a desired result.
6.30.2005 1:13pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
"What percentage of Americans who didn't go to law school actually understand what the Surpreme Court does? One percent maybe?"

You ever think that it's arrogance like that that might just contribute to the public's low opinion of attorneys in general, let alone the Supreme Court?
6.30.2005 2:08pm