Poll: 64% Say Judges More Anti-Religious Than Founding Fathers Intended

April 23rd, 2010

From a recent Rasmussen poll:

Only 21% of Americans think that rulings by judges in recent years regarding religion in public life have correctly interpreted the U.S. Constitution, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

Sixty-four percent (64%) of adults believe the judges’ rulings have been more anti-religious than the Founding Fathers intended. Fifteen percent (15%) aren’t sure.

But only 46% say the U.S. Supreme Court has been too hostile towards religion, a view unchanged from a survey nearly five years ago. Thirteen percent (13%) say the high court has been too friendly towards religion, down 10 points from the earlier survey. Thirty-three percent (33%) feel neither characterization of the court is accurate.

As President Obama prepares to nominate a replacement for retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, 39% of voters nationwide believe the Supreme Court is too liberal. Twenty-five percent (25%) think the court is too conservative, and 27% feel its ideological balance is about right.

At the same time, 45% believe that justices nominated by Obama will be too liberal, while 41% believe the nominees will be about right.

Eighty-seven percent (87%) of Evangelical Christians view court rulings as too anti-religious, a view shared by 72% of other Protestants and 62% of Catholics. Those who practice other religions are evenly divided on the question.

Seventy-three percent (73%) of Evangelical Christians regard the Supreme Court as too hostile, but just 48% of other Protestants, 38% of Catholics and 29% of those of other faiths agree.
By a 60% to 31% spread, voters believe Supreme Court justices should be guided by what’s written in the Constitution rather than on notions of fairness and justice. However, by a 44% to 32% margin, voters believe the president holds the opposite view.

Those who regularly attend a church, synagogue or mosque feel very strongly that the courts have been more anti-religious than the Founding Fathers intended. However, 51% of those who rarely or never attend a religious service of any kind believe the courts have correctly interpreted the Constitution.

I don’t give these kinds of polls much weight. This poll is interesting in that the questions are framed from an originalist perspective. That is fidelity to the Constitution is tied to the views of the Founders. Anyone who has studied the founding era knows that “The Founders” is an unhelpful and nebulous concept. The intent of various members of the ratifying conventions are often conflicting and in tension. Thus, the better inquiry would inquire about the original public meaning of the Constitution, rather than the intent of the framers.