Friday, August 1, 2008

Public opinion divided on marriage, Supreme Court

Expect some more substantive postings to come on family law and other matters, but for now I'll just pass on these results from a new Quinnipiac University poll:
"American voters oppose same-sex marriage and they don't want to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, but by a narrow margin, they don't want their states to ban it," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "And they don't want to amend the Constitution on this issue. "Given a range of choices, they divide into thirds - for gay marriage, for civil unions, for a complete ban."
There are, of course, many ways to spin this: you can focus on majority opposition to same-same marriage as such, or on opposition to state and federal bans. Also, you can focus on marriage or you can focus on recognition and rights: While it's true that only a third of Americans say plain and simple that they support marriage equality, it's also true that only a third of Americans oppose legal recognition and rights for same-sex couples. That represents a huge shift in opinion over the last several years. (What's not news is that women are still significantly more likely to support marriage equality than men.)

And on the Court:
Looking at the U.S. Supreme Court and social issues, American voters narrowly disapprove 43 - 39 percent of the job the Court is doing, the lowest rating in five years of Quinnipiac University surveys on the Court and the first time the Court has received a negative score. Voters say 42 - 33 percent that the Supreme Court is moving in the wrong direction.

While 33 percent of voters say the Court is "about right," 25 percent say it is too liberal and 31 percent say it is too conservative.
So only a third of Americans think the Court's ideological balance is right, but the rest are divided between "too liberal" and "too conservative." It would be very interesting to follow these questions up by asking for specific examples of what the Court has been doing. Does this result reflect division of Americans on the high-profile social issues with which the Court is so often associated? Or do the people who think the Court is "too liberal" have different decisions and different issues in mind than the people who think it is "too conservative"?

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