TV & Radio
Poll Examines Supreme Court Priorities
By WILL LESTER, Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, August 3, 2005
(08-03) 19:23 PDT WASHINGTON, (AP) --
Americans consider Supreme Court decisions about the rights of detained terrorists as important as its rulings on abortion, a poll found, even though abortion has been the most publicized issue in early debate about an opening on the Supreme Court.
Almost two-thirds of those polled, 63 percent, called the top court's decisions on abortion "very important," while 62 percent gave the same rating to its rulings about detained terrorists' rights, according to the poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
The poll was taken before President Bush chose John Roberts as his nominee to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
"This important question of the trade-off of civil liberties and protection is one the public takes very seriously," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. "The public has been reminded recently of the ongoing threat of terrorism and what we should or should not have to sacrifice for our safety."
Kohut said public concerns about the issue of detainees' rights appear to be high, even though "this has not been one of the issues at the forefront of debate about the Supreme Court."
Last year, the Supreme Court declared the Bush administration out of line for jailing foreign terrorist suspects at the Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without access to lawyers and courts. The justices also said American terror suspects could not be held in legal limbo.
A state of war "is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens," O'Connor wrote in one of the cases decided last June.
Recent polling by ABC News and The Washington Post found that six in 10 Americans say the United States is adequately protecting the rights of people detained in the campaign against terrorism, such as those held at Guantanamo.
The Pew Research Center, in cooperation with the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, looked at current public opinion on several issues that could come before the Supreme Court:
_Almost two-thirds, 65 percent, are opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion, but there also is public support for some limits on abortion. Almost three-fourths favor requiring women under age 18 to get parental consent before having an abortion.
_Just over half of those polled, 53 percent, said they support civil unions for gay people, while 36 percent said they favor gay marriage — a slight increase on both issues from a year ago.
_By almost 2-1, people think it's more important to conduct stem cell research that may lead to cures for debilitating illnesses than to avoid destroying potential life of embryos involved in such research.
_The public is divided over how far physicians can go in ending the lives of terminally ill patients.
_A majority, 55 percent, said they consider court decisions about religious displays very important.
The results are based on separate surveys conducted July 13-17 among 1,502 adults and July 7-17 among 2,000 adults. The error margin is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, larger for subgroups.
On the Net:
Pew Research Center:
Majority Of Americans Support Rights For Gay Couples
by Paul Johnson 365Gay.com Washington Bureau Chief
Posted: August 3, 2005 5:00 pm ET
(Washington) Support among American voters for same-sex marriage has rebounded to its highest point since July 2003 and for the first time, a majority favors giving gay and lesbian couples many of the same rights as married couples.
While 53% of those polled by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press oppose gay marriage, 35 percent said they favor gay marriage. That is the highest number of people supporting same-sex marriage since the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court took up the marriage issue in 2003, ultimately ruling in November that year that gay couples could wed.
Following the ruling support for gay unions plummeted and in last year's election 11 states banned same-sex unions in their constitutions.
But, as the pollsters note, the bigger news is the growing support for civil unions and legal protections for gay couples.
Fifty-three percent, the same number as oppose gay marriage, would permit gays and lesbians to enter into legal arrangements that would give them many of the same rights as married couples.
"This is exactly what the right wing is afraid of," Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage matters told 365Gay.com.
"If we stick with the conversation and persist in engaging the non-gay public on marriage equality the pubic will move to fairness."
The questions on same-sex couple rights were part of a broader series of surveys by Pew between July 7 and 17, prior to the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court.
Gay marriage did not figure in the top five issues people believe the Supreme Court should deal with. Abortion topped the list, followed by terror suspect rights, religious displays, lawsuit award limits, and affirmative action.
A consistent majority of Americans (65%) are opposed to overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision establishing a woman's right to abortion. But most Americans also favor restrictions on abortion. Nearly three-quarters (73%) favor requiring women under age 18 to get parental consent before being allowed to get an abortion.