Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Immigration, Health Care, and the Legitimacy of the Supreme Court

Today, Francisco Pedraza and I have a post at Latino Decisions reporting some data from our recent survey of attitudes toward the Supreme Court among Latinos and other Americans. The post focuses on how the Supreme Court's pending immigration decision might affect its standing among Hispanic Americans. However, we also deal with the health care case and some other evidence out there indicating relative low "approval" ratings for the Supreme Court. So, the post is (hopefully) useful to anyone interested in the public standing of the Supreme Court.

Here's some of our key analysis:
[W]e asked, “Would you say the Supreme Court is too liberal, too conservative, or about right in its decisions?” Here, we find strikingly similar results to the Time’s survey. Only 43% of our respondents said the Supreme Court’s decisions were “about right,” a figure almost identical to the 44% approval rating identified by the Times.  However, our survey shows that those dissatisfied with the Supreme Court are evenly divided between those who believe the Court is “too liberal” (25%) and those who believe it is “too conservative” (25%).

This basic pattern is true among both Latinos and non-Latinos. As Figure 1 shows, a plurality of Americans, Latinos and non-Latinos alike, believe that the Supreme Court is getting its decision-making right in ideological terms while the remainder of the public is about evenly divided between believing the Court is too liberal or too conservative. Though it may look like Latinos are more likely than other Americans to regard the Supreme Court as too conservative, this is because Latinos are more strongly Democratic partisans. Latino Democrats are actually more likely to say the Supreme Court decides cases “about right” (42%) than non-Latino Democrats (37%).
Figure 1: Would you say that the Supreme Court is too liberal, too conservative, or about right in its decisions?
The even ideological division between those who are dissatisfied with the Court for being too liberal versus being too conservative means that we should probably interpret the Supreme Court’s 44% “approval” rating much differently than, say, President Obama’s 46% approval rating in the latest Gallup poll. The set of Americans who “disapprove” of the job President Obama is doing in office undoubtedly includes some strong progressives who do not think the president has been aggressive enough in promoting liberal policies. Yet, the bulk of the President’s critics are conservatives and moderates who think his policies are too liberal or that he is doing a bad job managing the economy. In contrast, those who disapprove of the Court  share no such ideological unity. Whether the next major decision of the Supreme Court is liberal or conservative, there is a well of support for that decision among those who think the Court has not been liberal or conservative enough that the justices can count on to get behind their institution.
 The whole thing is here.

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