EAGAN, Minn., June 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Nearly two-thirds of Americans cannot name any members of the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a new national survey by FindLaw.com (http://www.findlaw.com), the most popular legal information website. Even as Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan awaits Senate confirmation hearings to replace retiring justice John Paul Stevens, only 35 percent of Americans can name even one member of the nation's highest court.
Clarence Thomas is the most well known justice but could be named by only 19 percent of Americans. Chief Justice John Roberts was named by 16 percent of people. Sonia Sotomayor, the newest justice, could be named by only 15 percent of Americans following a highly visible nomination and confirmation process last year.
According to the FindLaw.com survey, the percentages of Americans who can name any U.S. Supreme Court justices are:
- Clarence Thomas – 19%
- John Roberts – 16%
- Sonia Sotomayor – 15%
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg – 13%
- Antonin Scalia – 10%
- Samuel Alito – 8%
- John Paul Stevens – 8%
- Anthony Kennedy – 6%
- Stephen Breyer – 3%
Only 1 percent of Americans could correctly name all nine current members of the Supreme Court.
In addition, many Americans think that retired justices Sandra Day O'Connor and David Souter are still active members of the Supreme Court. O'Connor and Souter retired from the Court in 2006 and 2009, respectively.
"This result is not especially surprising nor, by itself, should it be alarming," said Michael C. Dorf, a former Supreme Court clerk who currently teaches constitutional law at Cornell University Law School and authors a legal column for FindLaw. "Even though Supreme Court rulings can have a major impact on contentious issues such as the death penalty, abortion rights, discrimination and environmental protection, the Court issues its rulings as a collective body. After their 15 minutes before the Senate Judiciary Committee are up, Supreme Court justices rarely appear on television. What is a source for concern are polls consistently showing that many Americans are unfamiliar with basic features of our constitutional system."
Free Internet resources, such as the FindLaw Supreme Court Center (http://supreme.lp.findlaw.com/) and the U.S. Supreme Court website (http://www.supremecourt.gov), provide the current and historical Supreme Court calendars, dockets, decisions, opinions and briefs, as well as Supreme Court history and biographies of justices.
The FindLaw.com survey was conducted using a demographically balanced telephone survey of 1,000 American adults and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percent.
Note to editors: Full survey results and analysis are available upon request.
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