Follow us:
  1. Home
  2. News
  3. Legal News

Poll Finds Most Recent Supreme Court Decisions Popular

Corporate-friendly Citizens United ruling highly unpopular

A new poll shows that the public mostly approves of recent Supreme Court decisions, with both liberal and conservative decisions receiving mostly positive reviews.

 The poll, entitled the "Constitutional Attitudes Survey," was conducted by Nathaniel Persily, a Columbia law professor, and Stephen Ansolabehere, a Harvard political science professor.

The poll surveyed nearly 1,200 people in 2009 and 2010 about, among other things, their "[g]eneral knowledge and attitudes about the American courts and other institutions," and their "[a]ttitudes about the role of government and the courts in deciding right and wrong."

The rulings endorsed by survey participants include those upholding both traditionally "liberal" and "conservative" ideals.

Among those supported on the right are opinions requiring voters to show identification, affirming homeowners' right to own a gun, and outlawing partial birth abortions; popular opinions on the left include those forbidding minors from being executed or sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, allowing environmental regulatory agencies to restrict the amount of carbon that companies can put out, and supporting abortion rights in general -- 61 percent of poll respondents support Roe v. Wade, the case that first affirmed the right to have an abortion.

Citizens United remains unpopular

One notable decision that stuck in respondents' respective craw, however, was Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the January 2010 opinion that struck down a federal law prohibiting corporations from airing advertisements endorsing a political candidate.

Fifty-eight percent of survey respondents disagreed with the statement, "Corporations ought to be able to spend their profits on TV advertisements urging voters to vote for or against candidates." Only 40 percent agreed with the statement.

Additionally, an overwhelming 85 percent of respondents answered yes to the question, "Should corporations be required to get approval from their shareholders for expenditures related to political campaigns?"Indeed, Persily told the Spokane, Washington-based Spokesman Review that the Citizens United opinion is "very out of step with public opinion."

The survey's results are consistent with those of a Washington Post-ABC News poll taken in February, shortly after the case was decided. A full 80 percent of respondents in that poll disagreed with the court's holding, and 65 percent labeled themselves "strongly" opposed. Surprisingly, that poll found that views of the decision did not split along party lines -- fully 76 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of independents, along with 85 percent of Democrats, disagreed with the decision.

Fallout from decision continuesCitizens United is still making headlines nine months after it was first announced. Business organizations, trade unions, and others have spent $153 million on political advertising during the 2010 election cycle, more than twice the amount that such groups spent in 2006.

And in late September, David Bossie, the CEO of Citizens United, told the Associated Press that he planned to spend "a couple hundred thousand dollars" advertising four DVDs slamming President Obama's and congressional Democrats' policies. Bossie reveled in the effect that he said the Supreme Court decision was having on the White House and the current congress.

"You can see by the actions of the White House and the Congress, this Citizens United ruling has gotten under the skin of the liberal establishment, the leadership of the House and Senate and the White House," he said. "They are completely emotional."

And Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito, who famously took issue with President Obama's criticism of Citizens United at this year's State of the Union address, has announced that he will likely not be attending the address in 2011.I doubt that I will be there in January," Alito said during a speech at the conservative Manhattan Institute, noting that judges are expected to sit silently during the address "like the proverbial potted plant," and that his colleagues "who are more disciplined refrain from manifesting any emotion or opinion whatsoever."

Take a Quiz

Get matched with an Accredited Partner