Approval Ratings for Supreme Court Justices?:
According to this press release, Rasmussen Reports conducts public opinion polls that include approval/disappoval ratings for several individual Supreme Court Justices. Most people have no idea who the individual Justices are, so obviously this should be taken with several beaches' worth of salt. But for your amusement value only, the following Justices have the following approval ratings:
Chief Justice Roberts, 36% favorable / 26% unfavorable
Justice Thomas, 48% favorable / 36% unfavorable
Justice Ginsburg, 37% favorable / 35% unfavorable
Justice Alito, 35% favorable / 37% unfavaorable
Justice Scalia, 35% favorable / 35% unfavorable
Hat tip: Howard.
DavidBernstein (mail):
People like Justices with WASP last names better than Jewish or Italian names?
12.18.2006 1:10pm
DRJ (mail):
You might want to correct Justice Ginsburg's ratings to "37% favorable, 35% unfavorable."
12.18.2006 1:13pm
John Steele (mail):

Your theory can't explain why Roberts scores essentially the same at the non-WASP names. Isn't the mystery why Thomas rises above what appears to be the standard baseline for approval?

An anecdote: back during the Gulf War, some of the sitting justices of the California Supreme Court were up for a reconfirmation vote, and all but one tallied the standard 75% approval rating -- except for Justice Arabian, who scored much lower. There was nothing controversial about him or his jurisprudence, so the discrepancy had to be name-based.
12.18.2006 1:43pm
I have to think that Justice Thomas would have far and away the highest name recognition of anyone currently on the Court.
12.18.2006 2:21pm
steve lubet (mail):
Roberts and Thomas each have favorability ratings 12% higher than their unfavorables. Ginsburg, Alito, and Scalia are each essentially even. Thus, the Wasp names are regarded more favorably and Bernstein's theory holds.
12.18.2006 2:24pm
JohnO (mail):
Anyone think that Alito's negative numbers might be inflated by respondents who don't know the difference between Scalia and Alito?
12.18.2006 2:42pm
Syd (mail):
More likely because his approval hearings were somewhat contentious. I'm surprised by the high rating for Thomas, not surprised for the rating for Roberts except I'd think more people would have an opinion.
12.18.2006 2:49pm
I find it highly unlikely that 80% of the American populace could have named more than 2 or 3 judges, or could name a single opinion they've written. I wonder if 20% of people could name any justices at all?
12.18.2006 3:33pm
John Steele (mail):

I was focusing on the nearly uniform favorability rating of 35% for all but Thomas, but you're right that while Roberts does fits that curve, he (unlike the other 35%ers) has a much lower unfavorability rating.

So I still don't find the WASP-name theory as explaining everything (i.e., it doesn't explain why Roberts has the lower favorability ranking). I traced back the link to the Rasmussen poll and it doesn't seem to have the other justices on it. That data might make things more clear.
12.18.2006 4:03pm
steve lubet (mail):
John: I am not advocating the Wasp-name theory, merely pointing out that it is supported by the scant available data. Of course there are many other possible explanations. That's the problem with a lot of so-called empirical research -- you never know what's been left out.
12.18.2006 4:24pm
Roberts low unfavoribility rating can possibly be explained by the fact that the media always talked highly of him.

But that is what surprises me about Thomas' high rating. He is consistently demonized at a more coarse level than Scalia, but then again Scalia seems to make the news more often, and not usually in the most positive light.
12.18.2006 4:30pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
In a just and knowing America, Thomas would have an 80% approval rating while Ginsburg would have a 10% approval rating.
12.18.2006 11:36pm
I'm convinced that more people can name the Fab 5 from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" than can name 5 members of the Supreme Court. If that is even close to being true, then the only sane response to approval ratings is Who the F**k Cares?
12.19.2006 11:27am