People Who Have Actually Heard of the Supreme Court Don't Like It Very Much

from the whozzat? dept

Cross-posted from
In August, we lamented the fact that nearly two-thirds of Americans couldn’t name a single member of the Supreme Court. At the time, we blamed it on the perceived stupidity of our nation’s population, calling for televised oral arguments in the hopes that they’d someday compete in the ratings with reality shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Unfortunately, given the high court’s resistance to change and the burgeoning evidence that we live in a country that’s overflowing with Honey Boo Boos, neither is going to happen any time soon.

But that’s really beside the point, because even if SCOTUS arguments were televised, they’d likely appear on C-SPAN, a channel that some people have probably never heard of before. Another thing that some people have never heard of before is the Supreme Court itself. That was a serious statement….

According to the latest Pew Research Center survey of 1,501 adults, conducted between March 13 and 17, approximately two percent of respondents claimed that they had “never heard of” the Supreme Court, which is the highest percentage that response category’s seen since 2007. Really? Really?!

Unlike the names of our nine Supreme Court justices, knowledge of the fact that the Supreme Court exists in the first place isn’t mere trivia question fodder. This is something that people learn in grade school, and considering that many of the Court’s high-profile cases have received hours upon hours of television coverage on basic cable, it’s shocking — nay, mortifying — that some can claim they’ve never heard of highest court in all the land. In sum: America, F**K YEAH!

Among the people who have heard of the Supreme Court, the justices’ favorability ratings are near an all-time low. Here’s more info (people who’ve never heard of SCOTUS should read this S-L-O-W-L-Y):

A national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted March 13-17 among 1,501 adults, finds that 52% view the court favorably, while 31% view it unfavorably. Those ratings have changed only modestly since last July, shortly after the court’s ruling to uphold most of the Affordable Care Act.

The WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.) notes that in years prior, between 1987 and 2010 in particular, the Supreme Court’s favorability rating never fell below 57%, and oftentimes was higher than 70%.

Are people just pissed off that “nine unelected people from a narrow legal background” have been responsible for many of our major democratic decisions (e.g., health care reform, immigration enforcement, affirmative action, and gay marriage)? That’s apparently what Justice Kennedy thinks, so it’s probably safe to assume that laypeople feel the exact same way.

But hey, at least these people have an opinion about the Supreme Court and know that it’s not some sort of a fictitious entity like the Justice League. We’re probably better off this way.

Supreme Court’s Favorable Rating Still at Historic Low [Pew Research Center]
A Hardening Opinion of the Supreme Court [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

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Filed Under: knowledge, opinion, supreme court


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  1. icon
    special-interesting (profile), 29 Mar 2013 @ 5:48pm

    The great majority of high school graduates know of the supreme court and possibly hold it in high esteem because of the wonderful human hope that most Americans have for the constitution. Yes that great shining document officially defended by the Justice Branch and except for those who actually paid attention in history class (and had a good teacher) the rating might be high indeed.

    However since the survey was given to adults (some age range would be more informative) we have to factor in personal experience.

    Its not that many don't know or once knew of their (Supreme Courts) existence its the likely fact we don't want to remember. Its common for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to edit memory. Why? All the bad decisions that have eroded privacy and personal property rights can make anyone cry. Every once and a while something good exits the Supreme Court but don't wait for it.

    One of my more recent quotes “actually (yeah right anytime soon now. Hahaha) expect the courts to toss out about 49 million (of the) filler pages congress likes to pass so much.” kind of sums it up. It amazes me that throwing out legislation shouldn't be the default value. Hope is still there but faint.

    So are they really corporation appointees or when are they actually going to start working like they have read the constitution? Kind of harsh criticism when applied to the (any of the state Supreme Courts also) Supreme Court(s). Does that sound negative? Capitalizing the words seem unnecessary.

    When was the last time an entire act/bill/record was thrown out as garbage by the court system? When was the last time a government official or complicit private firm was punished by the courts for violation privacy or personal property rights? Considering the wild claims about the PATRIOT act and how even that did not encompass the suspected phone/Internet privacy violations... speechless.

    And what about that little detail that electronic communications both analog and digital don't seem to be covered under the term privacy but only by other wire transfer laws?

    Its possible that the courts find it an honor to decide the fate of loosely worded law and not choke on the fact much of it is not concise and specifically worded in solid legalese. (just a possible rationalization on why loosely written law is accepted at that level as pride is always a factor.) The rest (of the 49 million filler pages) is likely just wrong and makes a mockery of the claim 'ignorance is no excuse'.

    Supreme Court? Never herd of them. (But probably should have?)

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