On Monday, the US Supreme Court begins its new term without a full bench. The vacancy left by the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia remains unfilled.
President Barrack Obama has put forth a nominee, Merrick Garland. The Senate has refused to consider his appointment, saying the empty seat should not be filled until the next President is elected.
In addition to Scalia’s seat, with the ages of the current Justices, there is a real possibility the next person to fill the big chair in the Oval Office may have the opportunity to appoint up to four other people to the High Court.
At stake is the ideological bent of the Supreme Court, which has been decidedly conservative for decades, to a more liberal persuasion.
Yet on the campaign trail we have heard only a small amount of talk of such an important duty of the presidency.
As the new term begins and the Presidential Election just over a month away, what do voters think of the Court?
In timely fashion, Pew Research has revealed the results of its most recent subject on the highest court in the land and Americans opinions about the Court.
As can be readily seen from this chart, the Justices are viewed much more favorably than the other branches of government. Americans with a 60% sentiment look kindly on the Court.
But there is a sharp difference in how Republicans and Democrats view the Supremes.
When Americans look at the Court from an ideological perspective, there are diverse ideas.
As the chart depicts, Democrats see the Constitution as being a living document and changing with changing times. Republicans tend to interpret the Constitution to say what it means and meaning what it says. Independents tend to be evenly split between the two points of view.
Moderates tend to be evenly split between POVs, while conservatives and liberals are decidedly encamped in opposing perspectives.
How does appointments to the Supreme Court factor into your decision on who should be the next Commander-in-Chief?
Does it have any sway?
Here are five takeaways identified by Pew:
- Americans’ opinions of the court hit a 30-year low last year after controversial decisions, but have rebounded after a quieter term.
- There is a significant partisan gap in views of the court.
- Partisans have starkly different views over how the justices should interpret the Constitution.
- Conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are particularly likely to see court appointments as very important to their vote.
- Most Americans disagree with the Republican-controlled Senate’s decision to not hold hearings on Obama’s court nominee.
From the Cornfield, as I continue to evaluate the candidates – Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Evan McMullin – who gets to make these vital appointments to a term for life is a deciding factor.