A new Harris Poll finds that a majority of Americans believe the Supreme Court is a necessary branch of the government. Why Harris Poll asked such a silly question, I do not know. The poll also found that two in five Americans (42 percent) said they are not knowledgeable about the Supreme Court confirmation process. Almost three in five (58 percent) Americans said that they are knowledgeable about the process, with 14 percent saying they are very knowledgeable and 44 percent saying they are somewhat knowledgeable. Americans 65 and older (74 percent) and men (71 percent) were more likely to say they were knowledgeable on the subject compared to younger Americans (18-33) and women (both 46 percent).
Delving a little bit deeper into what Americans expect from a Supreme Court Justice nominee, the poll found that a majority of Americans agree that nominees should be required to answer questions on specific issues (81 percent) and how they might rule on specific court cases – both past cases and hypothetical ones (63 percent), while over half said they should answer questions about their personal life (54 percent). Four in five (84 percent) of Americans aged 46-64 and 65 and older agree that nominees should be required to answer questions about their views on specific issues, compared to three-quarters of those aged 18-33 who say the same (76 percent). Older Americans are also more likely to agree that nominees should be required to answer questions about their personal life (58 percent of those 46-64, and 68 percent of those 65 and older), compared to less than half of younger Americans (4 percent of those 18-33 and 48 percent of those 34-45), who say the same.
By political affiliation, over three-quarters of Republicans (76 percent) say nominees should be required to say how they would vote in specific court cases, compared to 54 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Independents who say the same. About 71 percent of Republicans think nominees should be required to answer questions about their personal life, compared to less than half of Democrats (49 percent) and Independents (49 percent) who think it’s important.
When asked what type of person Americans would most like to see on the Supreme Court, half (51 percent) said someone who keeps their personal opinions of "right" and "wrong" to themselves and makes decisions strictly based on the letter of the law and the Constitution. One-third of Americans say they want an independent thinker who “uses creativity and an understanding of modern circumstances” to make legal rulings (32 percent); just 6 percent say they would want someone who uses their own values or moral compass to guide their decisions; and one in ten are not at all sure what type of person they prefer (11 percent).
By political party, a majority of Republicans (67 percent) prefer justices who make decisions based strictly on the letter of the law and the Constitution. Democrats are split — 45 percent say they want an independent thinker, while 38 percent say they prefer someone who makes decisions based strictly on the letter of the law.
The most interesting part of the poll – which should give Americans some inspiration – is the fact that a majority of Americans (69 percent) believe the Supreme Court is crucial to the continued success of the United States. Republicans (71 percent), Democrats (74 percent), and Independents (70 percent) all agree on this point. Interestingly, women show more uncertainty on this, as 65 percent say that the Supreme Court is a crucial governing body, compared to three-quarters of men (75 percent) who say the same. Just one in ten (10 percent) women say that the Supreme Court is not necessary—decision making power should lay within the state courts, and over one-quarter of women are not at all sure (26 percent).
The Harris Poll surveyed 2,775 adults online between August 9 and 16, 2010. It was conducted by Harris Interactive.
Source: Harris Poll