Political Science ETDs

Public Opinion of the Supreme Court: Albuquerque, 1967

George Wallace Dean


This thesis is an analysis of a survey of public opinion about the United States Supreme Court. The survey itself, in which the author did not participate, was conducted by students in the Political Science Department during the 1967 spring semester. Approximately sixty questions were asked of the survey respondents and all replies were coded and placed on data processing cards. The Chi-square test for statistical significance was applied to this data. Multi-variate analyses were made of several of the variables using Pearson’s Coefficient of Contingency, C.

The basic measurement of attitude consisted of an algebraic scaling of replies to a series of questions concerning the respondents' like or dislikes of the Court. This measurement of attitudes was then analyzed in terms of each of several independent variables. These independent variables consisted of agreement with the decisions of the Court, agreement with general concepts of democracy, support for several specific free speech and procedural rights, political party identification, and information received about the Court. Attitudes were also analyzed in terms of demographic variables of occupation, education, marital status, sex, ancestry, family income, age, race, subjective class identification, religion, and labor union membership.

The major multi-variate analysis involved the five independent variables mentioned above. This analysis consisted of using each variable as a test factor in order to determine the effect of each on the relationships between attitudes and each of the other four variables. There were several multi-variable analyses made also that involved fewer variables. These were usually to test the effect of political party on the relationships between attitudes and variables other than those already discussed.

Voting behavior, prior information, and political party identification were the variables that were most important in explaining opinions of the Supreme Court. The most prevalent attitude found was one of generalized approval, with very few people able to verbalize a definite like or dislike. The level of support was lower than expected and was lower than reported in other studies. At the same time, the great majority of the sample thought that the Court was doing its proper job.

The dominant tendencies of the respondents were for the Democrats to be pro-Court and the Republicans to be anti-Court. These tendencies were greatly strengthened for those who voted a straight party ticket. The same tendencies were also found to exist for those who voted for Democratic and Republican candidates respectively, regardless of the voter’s party affiliation. Some of the other variables did affect certain sub-populations in the sample but none were found to have the same dominating effects of identification with one of the political parties.