Tea Party Movement Happier With Supreme Court than Other Branches of Government, Survey Finds


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New York, July 19, 2010—Despite a general distrust of government, most Tea Party supporters believe the Supreme Court will correctly decide difficult issues, even if they are unpopular and go against the will of the president or Congress, a new survey finds.
The survey, co-authored by Nathaniel Persily, the Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law and Political Science at Columbia Law School, also found a majority of Tea Party supporters approve of the Supreme Court’s performance.
The results were taken from an online survey by Knowledge Networks on a wide range of issues that probed attitudes toward constitutional issues, including gun control, abortion rights, and the death penalty.
Some 1,027 people answered questions, including 456 who identified themselves as supporting the Tea Party movement. Harvard University political scientist Stephen Ansolabehere co-wrote the survey with Persily, who in his 2008 book Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy, looked at the impact Supreme Court decisions have on public opinion.


Some 80 percent of Tea Party backers either have a great deal or some confidence in the Supreme Court, compared to just 37 percent for Congress and 39 percent for President Obama. Overall, 56 percent approve of the job the Supreme Court is doing, compared to 63 percent of those surveyed who do not support the Tea Party.
On issues before the court, the survey found:
  • Eighty percent of Tea Party supporters agree the Supreme Court should recognize a right to privacy even if it is not explicitly stated in the Constitution.
  • Some 48 percent believe the Constitution should be viewed as a general set of principles that can change over time, compared to 74 percent of respondents who do not back the Tea Party.
  • Asked whether the Supreme Court should focus less on the Constitution’s original intent and more on the effect its decisions will have today, just 38 percent of Tea Party backers support that idea, compared to 69 percent not in the Tea Party.
While 72 percent of those who do not support the Tea Party approve of Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court, just 33 percent of movement supporters back her. Persily said that number was likely held down by President Obama’s low numbers from Tea Party supporters. They gave him just a 26 percent approval rating.
The survey is a follow-up to a similar poll done in 2009. Both have a margin of error of 4 percent.
The full Tea Party survey can be read here. The results from all respondents can be read here.
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