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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Knowledge, Interest, and the Supreme Court

Pew finds that relatively few Americans followed the McCutcheon decision:
Just 13% of American adults say they followed the campaign finance story “very closely” last week, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Roughly half (49%) say they followed the story “not at all closely,” which is the category in the survey that represents the lowest level of interest.
Indeed campaign-finance decisions tend to get less attention than other kinds of decisions:

 Campaign finance rulings by Supreme Court not followed closely

And Americans generally do not know that much about the Court:
By some measures, the workings of the Supreme Court remain opaque to the public. Over the years, Pew Research has conducted several surveys about the public’s knowledge of the Supreme Court. In a Pew Research survey conducted last August, online respondents were asked to select the justice who had most often been the swing vote in closely divided court cases recently. When shown the pictures and names of four different justices, only 28% correctly chose Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote.
Likewise, just 34% correctly identified John Roberts as Chief Justice out of a list of four names in August 2012. However, looking back at perhaps the most famous case in modern Supreme Court history, 1973’s Roe v. Wade, a 62% majority of Americans knew that the case dealt with abortion, according to our survey conducted in Jan. 2013. Predictably, knowledge of all these questions has correlated strongly with education.
After the high-profile rulings last June on same-sex marriage and the Voting Rights Act, the public showed different degrees of knowledge about what the rulings meant. Two-thirds (67%) knew that the court ruled states could determine whether same-sex couples could marry. But when it came to the voting rights decision, just one-third correctly stated that the court had overturned parts of the Voting Rights Act. The year before, 55% of the public correctly said the Supreme Court upheld most of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.