U.S. Supreme Court

Majority of poll respondents favor SCOTUS reforms, think justices' political views skew decisions


If voters had their way, U.S. Supreme Court justices would no longer serve life terms, would be compelled to put cameras in the courtroom, and would be bound by tighter ethical and financial disclosure rules, according to a recent poll.

The Huffington Post reported Wednesday noted the poll (PDF) which was conducted by Democratic-aligned firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, which found that only 35 percent of those surveyed had a positive view of the court. It also noted that Gallup polls have indicated a decline in overall approval of the court since summer 2000.

“The Supreme Court has very lackluster job performance ratings and is viewed as overly political by Americans, who support a wide range of reforms for our nation’s highest court,” the survey found.

According to the survey results, this high level of dissatisfaction was prevalent across the ideological spectrum with Democrats, Republicans and independents all voicing their disapproval. Perhaps surprisingly, Republicans actually expressed more negative opinions about the court than Democrats. When asked to rate the court’s performance from excellent to good to fair to poor, 26 percent gave the court a rating of “poor,” compared to 18 percent of Democrats. Meanwhile, 8 percent of Democrats actually gave the Chief Justice John Roberts’ their highest marks, as opposed to only 6 percent of Republicans. And 70 percent of independents responded that the court was doing either a fair or poor job.

“In a time of intense partisan polarization in this country, the most remarkable thing about these results is the extraordinary cross-partisan consensus on these issues,” the survey found.

On specific cases, voters were even more disapproving. Eighty percent of those surveyed disagreed with the outcome of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case as presented by the survey, and 51 percent said they thought the recent McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission case, which also dealt with campaign finance, would result in more corruption. The survey also reported that 60 percent of respondents believe Supreme Court Justices often let their partisan politics or personal agendas influence their decisions.

As for specific reforms, voters expressed broad support for term limits for justices and mandatory financial disclosure rules that other federal judges are bound by. As for recordings, the survey found overwhelming support for both audio and video recording of court proceedings, with 71 percent in favor of live television broadcasts.

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