Would you mind taking a short opinion survey?

August 21, 2002

Howard Bashman: Poll-Tergeist - Why the Supreme Court shouldn't care what you think.

Allowing the Constitution's meaning to be determined by public opinion polls not only devalues that historical document, but it also ends up undermining the majority's preferences by allowing a vehemently opposed minority to become much more influential than it would otherwise be. Recent history has shown just how tempting it can be to constitutionalize the public's preferences. Instead of celebrating that result, both the Supreme Court and the public should recognize that it is in the majority's own interest to reject constitutional adjudication by opinion poll in favor of pursuing change through the political process.

Political public opinion polls are highly overrated. Most are poorly written, using leading questions biased to get a desired result. With enough care taken to craft the qeustions, one could use two different set of questions to get two drastically different set of responses from a single sample.

The Clinton Administration's addiction to polling is not a good model for the Court to follow. Look at poll-related decisions made around the Lewinsky case. Politically expediency is not a foundation for constructing optimal policy, but still better than the bush administration's "our own self-interest first" system. Leave the Supreme Court's deliberations as far outside the realm of politics as possible.

Posted by Andrew Raff at August 21, 2002 09:38 PM
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