Should Obama Ignore the Federal Courts?

Rasmussen Reports, February 20, 2015

President Obama’s immigration plan and his national health care law both face legal challenges this year that could bring them to a halt. But one-in-four voters think the president should be able to ignore the courts if he wants to, and Democrats believe that even more strongly.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 26% of Likely U.S. Voters think the president should have the right to ignore federal court rulings if they are standing in the way of actions he feels are important for the country. Sixty percent (60%) disagree and say the president should not have the right to ignore the courts. Fifteen percent (15%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

But perhaps more unsettling to supporters of constitutional checks and balances is the finding that 43% of Democrats believe the president should have the right to ignore the courts. Only 35% of voters in President Obama’s party disagree, compared to 81% of Republicans and 67% of voters not affiliated with either major party.

Fifty-two percent (52%) of all voters believe, generally speaking, that court challenges of actions approved by the president and Congress help protect the rights of U.S. citizens. Thirty percent (30%), however, consider such challenges mostly nuisances that stand in the way of good policy. Eighteen percent (18%) are not sure.

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This is basically unchanged from July 2013 when we first asked this question. The system of checks and balances between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government was designed by the Founding Fathers to assure that a consensus was achieved before national legislation could be implemented, but presidents of both parties have complained over the years about the challenges of getting things done in such a system.

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Women and younger voters feel more strongly than men and those 40 and older that the president should have the right to ignore federal court rulings. Black voters believe that more than whites and other minority voters do.

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