June 16, 2009

The Court and Public Opinion

The National Journal's Stewart Taylor has an interesting article entitled "Court More Liberal Than Public Opinion."  It is worth remembering when the White House or the media label Obama's nominees moderate.

"We in the media habitually describe the Supreme Court as made up of four conservatives, four liberals and one swing-voting centrist, Anthony Kennedy. These labels serve reasonably well to situate the justices on the ideological spectrum compared with one another.

But while the court is sometimes called "conservative," it looks pretty liberal if we chart the justices' rulings and individual views against general public opinion, as measured by poll results on issues including abortion, race, national security, religion, gay rights, gun rights and the death penalty.

The four more liberal justices -- John Paul StevensDavid SouterRuth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer -- all fall markedly to the left of public opinion on every one of the abovementioned issues. So does Kennedy, when it comes to national security, religion, gay rights, the death penalty and to some extent abortion. Judge Sonia Sotomayor is widely expected to be at least as liberal as Souter, whom she would replace.

If President Obama gets an opportunity to replace one of the five more conservative justices, the new majority will be quite dramatically to the left of public opinion. And voters will, of course, remain powerless to overturn the justices' constitutional interpretations. (emphasis added)"

Be sure to read the whole thing.

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