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October 17, 2010

Media reports on public support for Atkins, Graham, Heller and Roper

As detailed in this new press story, which is headlined "Public backs most high court rulings," a recent report suggests that the general public is generally supportive of the Supreme Court's recent pro-defendant Eighth Amendment rulings and pro-gun Second Amendment ruling.  Here are snippets from the press story:

The Supreme Court shifted to the right four years ago when conservative Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. succeeded moderate Sandra Day O’Connor.  And if American public opinion is the measure, the Roberts court has made the right call in most of its major decisions since then, according to a recent study that asked respondents about cases.

A strong majority favored conservative rulings that prohibited “partial-birth” abortions, upheld a homeowner’s right to have a gun, and required voters to show photo identification.

The majority also supported liberal rulings that said environmental regulators could restrict the carbon pollution linked to global warming and that struck down state laws that put juvenile criminals in prison for life without hope for parole....

Columbia University law professor Nathaniel Persily said the court historically has been “to the left of the public” on issues that attract attention, such as crime, religion and affirmative action. Along with Harvard political science professor Stephen Ansolabehere, he set out to survey the public’s view of actual cases.  Their Constitutional Attitudes Survey asked more than 1,600 respondents in 2009 and 2010 about issues that were before the Supreme Court....

Overall, the court’s current and nuanced position on the death penalty and abortion is in line with public opinion, the survey found.

A majority supports the death penalty for murder, and the court has upheld capital punishment.  The public also agreed with the rulings that ended the death penalty for those who are mentally handicapped (in 2002) and for those under age 18 at the time of their crimes (in 2005).

On abortion, the public supports –- by a 61 percent to 38 percent majority –- the Roe v. Wade ruling that set forth the right to an abortion, but it also supports regulations and restrictions, including limits on late-term abortions.

At Nathaniel Persily's webpage, I found what appears to be the July 2010 report on the Constitutional Attitudes Survey upon which this press article is based.  This 113-page "Constitutional Attitudes Field Report" (which is available for download below) is a bit hard to sort through, and I was not able to find the results showing public agreement with the 2010 Graham LWOP decision.  Also, though not reported by the press, it appears that the survey also revealed strong disagreement with the Supreme Court's 2008 Kennedy decision prohibiting the death penalty for child rapists.

Download Constitutional Attitudes Field Report_Client-1

UPDATE:  Via a helpful e-mail, Professor Persily has clarified where the Graham results can be found and what they showed:

We asked the following question (page 99 of the codebook):

In general do you agree or disagree with the following statements: A state should be allowed to sentence for life in prison a person under 18 years of age for armed burglary.

Stongly agree 10.9%

Agree Somewhat 24.6%

Disagree Somewhat 38.0%

Strongly disagree 23.4%

Refused to answer 3.1%

October 17, 2010 at 11:42 AM | Permalink

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Comments

I think the survey was taken in 09, as it questions whether Sotomayor should be confirmed. And Obama was a lot more popular. And even Congress. Who knew it was such a golden era.

Posted by: Matt | Oct 17, 2010 4:11:41 PM

"I was not able to find the results showing public agreement with the 2010 Graham LWOP decision. Also, though not reported by the press, it appears that the survey also revealed strong disagreement with the Supreme Court's 2008 Kennedy decision prohibiting the death penalty for child rapists."

Bingo!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 17, 2010 11:54:27 PM

Speaking of Sotomayor, it will be interesting to see what she'll have to say, if anything, if Simmons v. Galvin, as expected, gets cert. denied. Sotomayor's views on the voting rights of prisoners is to the left of the Ninth Circuit's. Maybe if she says nothing, then we can conclude she's learned a little while at SCOTUS. Hopefully, she's also learned about how summary judgments are evaluated on appeal. Her scripted comment that Ginsburg's dissent in the Ricci case would have affirmed the Second Circuit was boffo wrong. One wonders whether an Alito or a Roberts would have gotten away with that.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 18, 2010 8:24:41 AM

Note that the Graham question does not distinguish between Chief Justice Roberts' position that this particular sentence was unconstitutionally disproportionate and the majority's new rule that all LWOP sentences for all under-18s for all nonhomicides are unconstitutional.

If they had asked about a serial rapist and torturer, I suspect the numbers would have been a bit different.

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