Americans Conflicted on Cases Involving Religion
As the U.S. Supreme Court wraps up its annual session, a survey conducted by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute revealed that many Americans doubt whether the court decides cases based strictly on the U.S. Constitution. Further, Americans revealed divided opinions on high-profile Supreme Court cases involving the intersection of religion and governance.
A majority of those surveyed say the U.S. Supreme Court is influenced by political considerations when it hears and decides cases, according to an online national survey. Only 30 percent say the court decides cases strictly on its interpretation of the Constitution. The survey base of more than 1,000 was narrowed to the 802 respondents who identified themselves as “likely voters” for questions specifically about the Supreme Court.
Likely voters were asked: “Which comes closest to your view about how the United States Supreme Court hears and decides cases?”
|The Supreme Court hears and decides cases based strictly on its interpretation of the Constitution and is not influenced by political considerations.
|The Supreme Court is influenced by political considerations when it hears and decides cases.
|Don’t know / not sure
Independents (I) were the most likely to believe the court is affected by politics, at 63 percent. A majority of Republicans (R) at 53 percent and a plurality of Democrats (D) at 43 percent agreed.
Voters were asked their opinions about specific issues before the court this term, including two cases touching on religion and governance.
The first case involved civic meetings and opening prayers. Earlier this year, in the case involving the Town of Greece (NY) v. Galloway, the court upheld the constitutionality of allowing government bodies to open meetings with a prayer, a point of view that a majority of respondents affirmed.
Likely voters were asked: Do you think government bodies, such as city councils or school boards, should be allowed to open their meetings with a prayer or a religious-based invocation?
|Yes, they should be allowed to open meetings with a prayer
|No, they should not be allowed to open meetings with a prayer
|Don’t know / not sure
Though the majority of the likely voters agreed that prayers should be allowed, Republicans, at 86 percent, were more likely than Independents, at 58 percent, or Democrats, at 53 percent, to agree.
With regards to a different issue, a plurality of 47 percent said they oppose the so-called employer mandate requiring employers to pay for contraception that induces abortion as part of the company’s insurance plan if that type of contraception violates the business owner’s religious beliefs. The Court heard arguments on this issue in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and is expected to issue a ruling on the matter soon.
Likely voters were asked: Should employers be required to pay for contraception that induces abortion as part of the company’s health insurance plan if that type of contraception violates the business owner’s religious beliefs?
|Don’t know / not sure
Among the 47 percent who answered “No,” Republicans, at 70 percent, strongly outnumbered both Independents, at 47 percent, and Democrats, at 31 percent.
Reflecting on the responses to the two questions, Michael Anthony Novak, Saint Leo University assistant professor of theology and religion, commented: “The results seem to indicate that a popular level of support remains for the Constitution’s fundamental First Amendment guarantee for the freedom of religion.”
Dr. Novak continued: “This runs counter to the support one hears for a ‘freedom from religion’ interpretation, which has its origins more in the French Revolution than the American Revolution. While still indicating a preference for the value of religious freedom, there seems to be a greater sense of ambiguity regarding religious exceptions to the Affordable Care Act. I suspect that this indicates an awareness of the difficulty of allowing citizens a ‘line-item veto’ with regard to how their tax monies are spent,” he said.
To view poll results click here.
About the Saint Leo University Polling Institute/Methodology
This Saint Leo University national poll of 1,016 people, including 802 likely voters, was conducted between May 28 and June 4, 2014. The margin of error is approximately 3 percent +/- with a 95 percent confidence level. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. Sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantages of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that are convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive – usually 50 cents deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account – for their participation.
About Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University is a regionally accredited, liberal-arts-based institution known for an inclusive Catholic heritage, enduring values, and capacity for innovation. The school was chartered in 1889 by Catholic Benedictine monks in rural Pasco County, FL, making Saint Leo the first Catholic college in the state. Over its 125-year history, Saint Leo has provided access to education to people of all faiths, emphasizing the Benedictine philosophy of balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit.
Today the university welcomes learners from all generations and backgrounds, from civilian occupations and the armed forces, and from all 50 states and more than 60 nations. Saint Leo’s 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students may elect to study at the beautiful University Campus in Florida, at more than 40 teaching locations in seven states, or online from other locations. The university’s degree programs range from the associate to the doctorate. Throughout these rich offerings, Saint Leo develops principled leaders for a challenging world.
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