March 5, 2003 - Supreme Court Should Listen To The People, Americans Tell Quinnipiac University Poll; 2-1 Are Opposed To Race-Based College Admissions
The U.S. Supreme Court should listen to the people, 76 percent of Americans say in a Quinnipiac University poll released today. But most Americans say the Court turns a deaf ear to public opinion.

The views of the majority of Americans should influence Supreme Court decisions "a great deal," 38 percent of Americans say, while 38 percent say the majority should have "some influence;" 10 percent say "only a little," and 12 percent say "none at all," the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.

The view of the majority has "a great deal" of influence, 6 percent say; 29 percent say it has "some" influence; 41 percent say "only a little," and 21 percent say "none."

Looking at one of the most controversial issues before the Court, Americans oppose 67 - 28 percent using race as a factor in public university admissions.

"When looking at the influence of public opinion, many people see the Supreme Court as just one more branch of government telling them what to do or not to do. The fact that judicial decisions are made and justified in a very different way from political decisions is not well-recognized by the general public. The highly political nature of some recent decisions, such as Bush v. Gore, allows people to view the Court as a political institution," said Professor William V. Dunlap of the Quinnipiac University School of Law.

"To some extent the Court does, and should, consider public opinion. When deciding whether some asserted right - such as choosing to have an abortion - is a fundamental right entitled to special constitutional protection, the court may take public views into consideration. The 1986 case upholding Georgia's anti-sodomy statute was based in part on the 'presumed belief of a majority of the electorate of Georgia that homosexual sodomy is immoral and unacceptable,'" Professor Dunlap added.

Americans' opinions on other issues which are or could come before the Court are:
  • Oppose 51 - 38 percent racial preferences in general;
  • Favor the death penalty 64 - 29 percent when the choice is "favor or oppose;"
  • Support drops to 47 - 46 percent, a statistical tie, when the choice is the death penalty or life without parole.
"Many Americans are concerned about the morality or the effectiveness of the death penalty, but want some extremely high penalty for the most heinous murders. When life without parole is an option, support for the death penalty drops 25 points. The difficulty in the real world is convincing people that there really never will be parole," Professor Dunlap said.

By a 30 - 9 percent margin, Americans have a favorable opinion of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, with 14 percent mixed and 46 percent who do not know enough to form an opinion. Favorability ratings of associate justices are:
                     Favorable    Unfavorable    Mixed    No Opinion
Sandra Day O'Connor     35%           7%          14%         43%
Clarence Thomas         30           16           14          39



Among the other associate justices, the "no opinion" ranged from 58 to 75 percent.

"It is not surprising that so few people recognize the individual Supreme Court justices. The Court functions as an institution (or sometimes, it seems, two opposing factions within an institution). Its members' personalities take a back seat to the Court itself, unlike political leaders such as the President or U.S. Senators," Dunlap said.

"Sandra Day O'Connor is recognizable because she is the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court and because she often is identified in news stories as the deciding vote on close and contentious issues such as abortion and affirmative action.

"Clarence Thomas became more famous than most Supreme Court nominees when Anita Hill leveled charges of sexual harassment against him during his confirmation hearings. Memories of that, combined with his position as a black justice opposed to many forms of affirmative action, have kept him in the public eye," Dunlap added.

Americans approve 56 - 28 percent of the job the Supreme Court is doing. And 60 percent say the Court has the right amount of power. While 19 percent say the court is too liberal, 26 percent say it is too conservative and 46 percent say it is about right.

The Supreme Court should consider changing times and situations in making decisions, 54 percent say, while 39 percent of Americans want justices to consider only the original intentions of the authors of the Constitution.

Looking at how Americans view recent or well-known Court decisions:
  • Agree 66 - 29 percent with the ban on the death penalty for the mentally retarded;
  • Agree 52 - 45 percent with the decision in favor of George W. Bush over Al Gore;
  • Disagree 57 - 38 with allowing states to make homosexual activity illegal;
  • Agree 62 - 35 percent with Roe v. Wade.
Abortion should be legal in all cases, 22 percent of Americans say; 32 percent say it should be legal in most cases; 24 percent say it should be illegal in most cases and 18 percent say all abortions should be illegal.

If and when President Bush nominates a Supreme Court justice, 24 percent of Americans say it is "very important" that the nominee be black, while 31 percent say it is "somewhat important;" 15 percent say it is "not too important," and 29 percent say it is "not important at all."

It is "very important" that the nominee be a woman, 26 percent say, while 29 percent say it is "somewhat important;" 14 percent say it is "not too important," and 29 percent say it is "not important at all."

"The racial breakdown on the question of a black justice is not surprising. What is interesting is that 46 percent of blacks and only 21 percent of whites say it is "very important to have a woman nominee," Dunlap said.

It is "very important" that the nominee be Hispanic, 23 percent say, while 29 percent say it is "somewhat important;" 16 percent say it is "not too important," and 29 percent say it is "not important at all."

From February 26 - March 3, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,448 adults nationwide, with a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percent.

The Quinnipiac University Poll, directed by Douglas Schwartz, Ph.D., conducts public opinion surveys as a public service and for research.

Complete poll questions and responses, including party, gender and racial information, are available at www.quinnipiac.edu or call (203) 582-5201


3. Do you approve or disapprove of the way the United States Supreme Court is handling its job?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Approve 56% 70% 46% 54% 56% 55% 58% 49% 56% Disapprove 28 17 35 30 30 25 25 35 32 DK/NA 17 13 19 15 14 19 17 16 12



11. Is your opinion of Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist favorable, unfavorable, mixed, or haven't you heard enough about him?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Favorable 30% 42% 23% 28% 34% 25% 33% 23% 20% Unfavorable 9 5 11 10 9 9 8 8 10 Mixed 14 13 15 14 12 16 14 17 13 Hvn't hrd enough 46 39 49 48 43 49 43 51 57 REFUSED 1 2 2 - 1 1 2 - -



12. Is your opinion of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens favorable, unfavorable, mixed, or haven't you heard enough about him?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Favorable 12% 11% 12% 14% 15% 9% 11% 11% 19% Unfavorable 3 4 3 4 4 3 3 6 3 Mixed 9 10 9 9 11 8 9 13 5 Hvn't hrd enough 74 74 75 74 70 79 76 70 73 REFUSED 1 1 1 - 1 1 1 - -



13. Is your opinion of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor favorable, unfavorable, mixed, or haven't you heard enough about her?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Favorable 35% 38% 36% 34% 36% 34% 37% 38% 22% Unfavorable 7 7 5 8 9 5 8 5 1 Mixed 14 16 14 12 13 16 15 13 10 Hvn't hrd enough 43 37 43 45 42 44 39 45 66 REFUSED 1 1 2 - 1 1 1 - -



14. Is your opinion of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia favorable, unfavorable, mixed, or haven't you heard enough about him?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Favorable 19% 29% 12% 17% 24% 14% 19% 15% 18% Unfavorable 8 3 12 9 10 7 8 11 9 Mixed 10 9 12 10 11 10 10 17 6 Hvn't hrd enough 62 58 62 64 55 68 62 58 67 REFUSED 1 1 2 - 1 1 2 - -



15. Is your opinion of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy favorable, unfavorable, mixed, or haven't you heard enough about him?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Favorable 15% 13% 16% 18% 19% 12% 14% 20% 15% Unfavorable 6 7 6 5 6 5 6 4 5 Mixed 11 10 10 11 10 11 10 15 7 Hvn't hrd enough 67 68 66 66 63 70 68 60 72 REFUSED 1 2 2 - 2 1 2 1 -



16. Is your opinion of Supreme Court Justice David Souter favorable, unfavorable, mixed, or haven't you heard enough about him?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Favorable 15% 17% 13% 15% 19% 10% 15% 11% 15% Unfavorable 6 5 7 6 6 6 5 12 6 Mixed 10 11 8 10 11 8 10 14 3 Hvn't hrd enough 68 64 71 68 62 74 68 62 77 REFUSED 1 2 2 1 1 1 2 1 -



17. Is your opinion of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas favorable, unfavorable, mixed, or haven't you heard enough about him?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Favorable 30% 46% 21% 27% 35% 25% 32% 26% 22% Unfavorable 16 6 28 15 14 19 16 26 13 Mixed 14 12 12 17 13 14 14 17 9 Hvn't hrd enough 39 35 37 40 36 41 36 31 56 REFUSED 1 1 2 - 1 1 2 1 -



18. Is your opinion of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg favorable, unfavorable, mixed, or haven't you heard enough about her?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Favorable 21% 17% 24% 24% 21% 21% 22% 16% 19% Unfavorable 9 15 6 6 11 7 10 8 2 Mixed 11 14 9 11 12 10 11 11 11 Hvn't hrd enough 58 53 59 59 54 61 55 64 67 REFUSED 1 1 2 - 1 1 2 1 -



19. Is your opinion of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer favorable, unfavorable, mixed, or haven't you heard enough about him?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Favorable 11% 11% 10% 11% 15% 7% 10% 8% 14% Unfavorable 4 4 3 5 4 4 4 5 4 Mixed 9 10 10 5 10 7 9 12 5 Hvn't hrd enough 75 73 75 78 69 81 75 75 76 REFUSED 1 1 2 - 1 1 2 1 -



20. How much influence do you think the views of the majority of Americans should have on the decisions by the Supreme Court? A great deal, some, only a little, or none at all?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Great deal 38% 29% 42% 39% 38% 37% 33% 45% 52% Some 38 43 37 36 32 44 40 43 27 Only a little 10 11 8 12 13 8 11 7 12 None at all 12 16 10 12 16 9 14 5 9 DK/NA 2 1 3 1 1 2 2 - -



21. How much influence do you think the views of the majority of Americans actually have on the decisions by the Supreme Court? A great deal, some, only a little, or none at all?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Great deal 6% 6% 6% 7% 8% 5% 4% 10% 19% Some 29 38 27 24 29 28 28 27 35 Only a little 41 38 40 46 38 44 43 38 31 None at all 21 16 25 19 24 19 21 26 13 DK/NA 3 2 2 3 1 4 3 - 1



22. Which comes closer to your point of view: A) In making decisions, the Supreme Court should only consider the original intentions of the authors of the constitution or B) In making decisions, the Supreme Court should consider changing times and current realities in applying the principles of the Constitution.

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


A) Intentions of the authors of the constitution 39% 48% 32% 38% 44% 35% 42% 33% 33% B) Changing times and current realities 54 47 59 56 51 56 52 60 58 DK/NA 7 5 8 6 5 8 6 7 9



23. Do you think the Supreme Court is too powerful, not powerful enough, or does it have about the right amount of power?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Too poweful 25% 21% 30% 22% 28% 22% 24% 33% 21% Not powerful enough 11 6 13 12 9 12 8 20 9 Right amount of power 60 71 51 62 61 59 62 44 68 DK/NA 5 3 6 4 3 7 6 3 1



24. Do you think the Supreme Court is too liberal, too conservative, or about right?
                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Liberal 19% 29% 12% 17% 21% 16% 20% 16% 15% Conservative 26 12 37 27 28 24 22 38 33 About right 46 51 39 48 44 47 46 42 51 DK/NA 10 8 12 7 7 12 11 4 2



25a. How important do you think it is that George W. Bush nominate a woman to the Supreme Court? Very important, somewhat important, not too important or not important at all?
                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Very important 26% 18% 35% 24% 20% 32% 21% 46% 43% Smwht important 29 31 30 30 29 29 30 27 26 Not too important 14 15 12 15 16 12 14 13 11 Not important at all 29 34 21 30 33 25 32 13 19 DK/NA 2 2 2 1 2 2 2 1 -



25b. How important do you think it is that George W. Bush nominate a black to the Supreme Court? Very important, somewhat important, not too important or not important at all?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Very important 24% 17% 33% 21% 19% 29% 18% 53% 34% Smwht important 31 31 34 30 29 32 31 28 30 Not too important 15 17 11 17 17 12 15 8 16 Not important at all 29 34 20 31 33 25 33 11 20 DK/NA 2 2 3 1 2 2 3 - -



25c. How important do you think it is that George W. Bush nominate a hispanic to the Supreme Court? Very important, somewhat important, not too important or not important at all?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Very important 23% 18% 29% 24% 20% 27% 16% 43% 54% Smwht important 29 31 29 28 27 30 30 32 21 Not too important 16 15 15 17 19 14 17 13 11 Not important at all 29 33 24 31 32 26 34 12 13 DK/NA 3 3 3 1 2 3 3 1 1



26. When the President chooses a Supreme Court nominee, should the President only consider that person's legal qualifications and background, or should the President also consider how that nominee might vote on major issues the Supreme Court decides?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Qualifications & background 59% 56% 60% 62% 62% 56% 61% 47% 59% Vote on major issues 34 38 33 32 31 36 32 51 33 DK/NA 7 6 7 6 6 8 7 3 9



27. Do you favor or oppose affirmative action programs that give preferences to blacks and other minorities?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Favor 38% 22% 53% 37% 33% 43% 28% 79% 62% Oppose 51 70 36 52 57 46 61 18 26 DK/NA 10 8 11 11 10 11 11 2 12



28a. (Split Sample A) Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of murder?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Favor 64% 77% 60% 58% 70% 59% 68% 52% 66% Oppose 29 18 32 35 26 32 26 37 31 DK/NA 7 4 9 7 4 10 6 11 3



28b. (Split Sample B) Which punishment do you prefer for people convicted of murder: the death penalty or life in prison with no chance of parole?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Death penalty 46% 63% 37% 41% 51% 41% 54% 19% 27% Life in prison/no chance of parole 47 29 55 51 40 52 39 73 66 DK/NA 8 8 8 7 8 7 8 9 7



29. Do you think abortion should be legal in all cases, legal in most cases, illegal in most cases or illegal in all cases?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Legal - all cases 22% 16% 28% 22% 21% 23% 23% 24% 16% Legal - most cases 32 26 36 32 35 29 33 32 25 Illegal - most cases 24 32 16 26 24 24 25 13 33 Illegal - all cases 18 23 16 16 15 21 16 27 23 DK/NA 4 3 3 4 5 3 3 4 4



30. In general do you agree or disagree with the decision that banned the death penalty for the mentally retarded?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Agree 66% 64% 65% 69% 67% 65% 70% 59% 50% Disagree 29 30 31 28 28 30 26 35 48 DK/NA 5 5 4 3 4 5 4 6 3



31. In general do you agree or disagree with the decision in the 2000 Presidential election that ruled for George W. Bush and against Al Gore?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Agree 52% 90% 19% 53% 53% 50% 59% 16% 39% Disagree 45 7 77 43 44 45 37 78 57 DK/NA 4 3 4 4 3 5 4 6 4



32. In general do you agree or disagree with the decision that allowed states to make homosexual relations illegal?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Agree 38% 51% 32% 32% 40% 36% 40% 36% 29% Disagree 57 44 64 63 56 58 55 60 67 DK/NA 5 5 3 5 4 6 5 4 5



33. In general do you agree or disagree with the 1973 Roe versus Wade decision that established a woman's right to an abortion?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Agree 62% 47% 69% 67% 66% 58% 63% 61% 53% Disagree 35 51 27 30 33 38 34 36 45 DK/NA 3 2 3 3 2 4 3 4 2



34. As you may know, the Supreme Court will be deciding whether public universities can use race as one of the factors in admissions to increase diversity in the student body. Do you favor or oppose this practice?

                        Tot   Rep   Dem   Ind   Men   Wom   Wht   Blk   His


Favor 28% 18% 35% 30% 28% 28% 22% 43% 47% Oppose 67 78 60 66 68 67 73 50 51 DK/NA 5 4 5 4 4 6 4 7 2