As the Senate prepares to consider a new U.S. Supreme Court justice, a new online national survey of more than 1,000 likely voters conducted for C-SPAN demonstrates strong public interest in the Court's work and awareness of the Court’s relevance.
Over four in five respondents (84%) say Supreme Court decisions have “an impact on their
everyday lives.” Further, two-thirds (65%) say the Court should allow TV coverage of its oral arguments, with 70% saying allowing TV cameras would build trust in the Court.
C-SPAN asked Pierrepont Analytics LLC to examine public awareness of the U.S. Supreme Court and related concerns such as trust, transparency, live oral argument audio awareness (a COVID-related innovation), and other topics including support for a Court Code of Ethics, 18- year terms for justices and TV cameras
in the courtroom.
government has taken a powerful hit in recent years,” said Robert Green, pollster
for Pierrepont Analytics. “But there is one ray of light among the gloom. Under-50 American voters are much more likey to listen to Supreme Court oral argument audio than age 50+ voters. Awareness and exposure to oral arguments audio are building favorability and trust in the Court.”
The Supreme Court began providing live audio of its oral arguments during the pandemic, in May 2020. Green pointed out that, according to the survey, American voters younger than 50 are much more likely to know (55%-38%) there are live audio oral arguments and more likely to have listened than age 50+ voters. Under-50 age voters are especially likely (58%) to say oral argument audio
has provided them a more favorable view of the Supreme Court.
“This survey demonstrates that Americans have found and are listening to the Court's oral
arguments and that listeners are coming away with a generally higher opinion of the Court,” said C-SPAN co-CEO Susan Swain. “That’s a strong message that more transparency is good for the Court — and good for the public.”
Other key survey findings:
- Only 56% of voters understand that the three branches of government are co-equal.
- Among the 44% who say the branches are not equal: Respondents say the Executive branch has the most power (51%), then the Legislative branch (26%) followed by the Judiciary (23%).
- One in four (28%) U.S. voters identified Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden's justice nominee, by name. (Another 15% could report that the new Supreme Court nominee is a Black female judge.)
- 42% say the Senate confirmation hearings are “an effective and fair tool” for deciding onCourt appointees.
- Among the sitting justices, the two best known are Clarence Thomas (24%) and Chief Justice John Roberts (22%).
- Only one landmark Supreme Court case is well-known to American voters: Roe v. Wade (named by 40%); next: Brown v. Board of Education (named by just 6%).
- Voters favor greater racial diversity (69%) on the Court, and 59% say it would be better if justices came from a more diverse set of universities beyond northeastern Ivy League colleges.
- Voters support an 18-year term limit for justices (69%) over the current lifetime
- Voters support a Code of Ethics for the Supreme Court (72%).
See what the public thinks in the complete poll results: