Americans Doubt The Supreme Court's Objectivity, But Don't Believe It Wields Excessive Power

05/14/2015 12:56 pm ET | Updated May 14, 2015
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With the Supreme Court slated to issue wide-ranging rulings this year that could affect the fates of the Affordable Care Act and gay marriage laws nationwide, Americans have mixed feelings about the judicial branch, a HuffPost/YouGov poll shows. The public lacks confidence that the justices will prioritize the law over their own opinions, and many suspect the Supreme Court is biased -- but few think it should have less power than it does, or hold it in lower esteem than other branches of the federal government.

Just 10 percent of Americans say they're very or extremely confident that the Supreme Court makes decisions based on objective interpretations of the law, rather than personal opinions. Thirty-four percent say they're moderately confident, and 42 percent that they're not too confident, or not confident at all.

A recent AP-GfK survey found a similar lack of confidence in how justices would rule on the Affordable Care Act, specifically, with 48 percent expressing doubts that objective interpretations would prevail over personal opinions.

Americans are about equally divided on whether the Supreme Court is too liberal, too conservative or somewhere in the middle, just as they were last fall. A majority of both liberals and conservatives see the Supreme Court as being biased against them, while those who consider themselves moderates are more likely to say the Supreme Court is about right ideologically, or to answer that they're not sure.

In a less-than-overwhelming victory for the concept of judicial review, just over half say the Supreme Court should have the last word over which laws are constitutional, while 21 percent say it should not, with another 26 percent unsure.

Still, 83 percent of Americans say they trust the Supreme Court as much as, or more than, other branches of the federal government. Just 28 percent believe the court has too much power.

And, with the exception of perceptions as to which way the court leans, the two parties are less divided than usual in their views of the judicial branch. Republicans are 4 points less likely than Democrats to say the Supreme Court has too much power, but also 14 points more likely to say they have little or no confidence in justices to rely on objective interpretations.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted May 11-13 among U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the poll's methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov's reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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