Monday, September 9, 2013

Public Opinion About SCOTUS

In honor of the SCOTUSblog symposium today on the UGA campus, I give you a few public opinion tidbits. Turns out, some folks have little patience the U.S. Supreme Court.

Take this 2012 ANES question:

If the U.S. Supreme Court started making a lot of decisions that most people disagree with, would you favor, oppose, or neither favor nor oppose doing away with the Supreme Court altogether?
  • About 14 percent favor doing away with the court.
  • About 44 percent opposed such an action.
  • And 34 percent are undecided
For those who can add to 100, note that the rest of the survey respondents are scattered among such categories such as "don't know" or "refused" or an incomplete interview.

So if I were in newswriting mode -- me being the pessimist I am -- I might say the lede is:
Fewer than half of Americans oppose doing away with the U.S. Supreme Court should it start turning out opinions unpopular with most people.
These data are not easy to use (I'm a pro, don't try this at home), but I plucked this one from the most basic of descriptions buried deep in a codebook that's 1,870 pages long.  I can go even further with this question, as in how much do respondents "lean" toward doing away or preserving an unpopular court. Results below are rounded, with the same caveats as before in terms of adding to 100.
  • Strongly favor doing away: 9 percent.
  • Favor, not strongly: 5 percent
  • Lean toward doing away: 4 percent
  • Not lean either way: 25 percent
  • Lean against doing away: 5 percent
  • Oppose doing away, not strongly: 9 percent
  • Oppose doing away, strongly so: 34 percent
I suppose there's some comfort in the bulk of people fall either in the strong opposition to doing away with an unpopular court or in the "neutral" response.

If I took more time, I could identify the socio-demographic or political factors that predict who is more likely to favor axing an unpopular court. I'd guess more conservative respondents, radically so, but that's only a guess. Perhaps with some prodding I'll run the analyses.

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