New C-SPAN/PSB Survey: American Attitudes about U.S. Supreme Court

August 28, 2018

  • 91% Say Supreme Court Decisions Affect their Lives
  • 69% Closely Following News About President Trump’s Nominee
  • 56% Say Supreme Court Justices Split on Political Grounds

One Week from Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing:
New Poll Shows Continued Strong Public Support for Cameras in the Court

(For immediate release, August 28, 2018) As the Senate readies its consideration of a new Supreme Court Justice, a new poll suggests high public interest in the Court and strong understanding of the Court’s influence on our society.

C-SPAN asked research-based consultancy PSB to gauge public opinion among likely voters regarding our third branch of government. Over two-thirds of respondents follow news stories about the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition, according to the poll, they find the Supreme Court has an impact on their everyday lives, see the Supreme Court as partisan, and express an interest in a more transparent Court:

  • Nine in ten (91%) say “decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court have an impact on their everyday life as citizens”
  • Over half (56%) say recent Supreme Court decisions demonstrate Justices are split into parties, similar to Republicans and Democrats in Congress
  • Just 28% think the Supreme Court “acts in a serious and constitutionally sound manner”
  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) favor television cameras in the Supreme Court and 71% agree that the Supreme Court should allow same-day release of audio recordings of its oral arguments if the Justices continue to block cameras in the courtroom.

Sixty-nine percent say they have been following the news in recent weeks concerning President Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Just over a third (35%) could identify Brett Kavanaugh as President Trump’s pick; 65% could not. Thirty percent say they are closely following the news concerning the Kavanaugh nomination. In the poll, 39% support Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Court, 35% oppose, and 26% have no opinion or don’t know.

Television news remains the top source of the public’s information about the Supreme Court, with nearly three quarters of those surveyed saying they get their information about the high court from TV. However, online media has now outpaced newspapers as the public’s second most popular information source for Court news—increasing nine percentage points from our 2017 survey (to 44% from 35%). Newspapers are now the public’s third most common source of Supreme Court news at 37%.

“Two in three American citizens who have an opinion think the U.S. Supreme Court is a partisan political body similar to Congress and those numbers are rising,” said Robert Green, Principal at PSB. “More Americans get their information on the High Court from TV and online media today than ever before. The easiest way to convey to the public that the Supreme Court takes its responsibilities seriously as a constitutional court would be to permit Americans to view the Court oral arguments unfiltered through TV or online.”

The C-SPAN/PSB survey tested public opinion on other Supreme Court-related issues, such as diversity, stare decisis, whether the Constitution is a living document, Senate rules on voting for Justices, and term limits for Justices.
See what the public thinks — as well as which current Supreme Court Justice is most correctly identified and which case is most commonly named — in the complete poll results here:

Watch live coverage of the confirmation hearings on the C-SPAN Networks beginning September 4, 2018.


PSB conducted online interviews from August 13-15, 2018 among n=1,000 U.S. likely voters. The margin of error for this study is +/- 3.10% at the 95% confidence level and larger for subgroups. Some percentages may add to more or less than 100% due to rounding.

About C‐SPAN

Created by the cable TV industry and now in nearly 100 million TV households, C‐SPAN programs three commercial-free public affairs television networks; C‐ SPAN Radio, heard in Washington D.C., at 90.1 FM and available as an App; and, a video‐rich website offering live coverage of government events and access to the vast archive of C‐SPAN programming.

About PSB

PSB is a global strategic communication advisory rooted in the science of public opinion that specializes in messaging and strategy for blue-chip political, corporate, and entertainment clients. For over 40 years, PSB has provided actionable insights and advice to help client win in highly competitive situations. PSB serves Fortune 100 corporations and has helped elect more than 30 presidents and prime ministers around the world. PSB is a part of Y&R and WPP.

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