June 20, 2011

Public Split on Interpreting the Constitution

50 to 45

Half the public says the Supreme Court should base rulings on what the Constitution means now, while 45% say it should be understood as originally written.

Americans are divided on whether the Supreme Court should base its rulings on its understanding of what the Constitution means in current times or whether those rulings should be strictly based on the Constitution as written, as had been argued by tea party movement adherents and many conservatives. Fully half (50%) said the Constitution should be interpreted to take into account modern times while 45% say the justices should base their understanding on what the Constitution meant as written. The view that the Constitution should be interpreted by the court in a modern context is hold by 81% of Americans who the Pew Research Center political typology study described as “Solid Liberals.” On the other end of the spectrum are “Staunch Conservatives” — 88% of them say that high court rulings should be based on the Constitution as originally written. More than six-in-ten (64%) of “Main Street Republicans” — those who identify with the party but are less ideological than “Stanch Conservatives” — believe in an originalist approach to the Constitution as do 70% of Libertarians. Among Democrats, while an overwhelming majority of Solid Liberals want the Constitution to be understood based on what it means in current times, a much smaller majority of other groups that come under the Democratic umbrella hold that view. Read More