Categories
Press Releases

Tennesseans Don’t Like Politics in Judicial Races: Poll

Press Release from Justice at Stake, Aug. 21, 2014:

WASHINGTON, DC – August 21 – A post-election poll of Tennessee voters who participated in the August 7 election finds a strong majority is opposed to partisan politics playing a role in the courts or in retention elections for judges. The poll, conducted on the evening of August 7, came in the wake of a highly politicized retention race for three incumbent justices, Chief Justice Gary Wade and Justices Cornelia Clark and Sharon Lee, in which more than $1.4 million was spent on television advertising.

“Tennessee voters decisively rejected efforts to politicize their courts,” said Bert Brandenburg, executive director of Justice at Stake. “They want judges to answer to the law, not political pressure.”

Eighty-five percent of voters polled said it is “very” or “somewhat” important to keep politics out of the courts, with a full 70 percent calling it “very important.” Eighty percent said they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned that politically charged retention elections might put pressure on judges to decide cases based on public opinion, and two-thirds said they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the role that out-of-state interests played in the judicial election.

All three justices were retained in spite of well-funded efforts to oust them, by both Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and out-of-state groups such as the Republican State Leadership Committee and Americans for Prosperity. The judges were forced to raise more than $1 million to defend themselves. Judicial election campaign fundraising can threaten impartial justice, because it forces judges to raise money from lawyers and parties who may appear before them.

Polling was conducted by Republican polling firm American Viewpoint, which surveyed 500 Tennessee voters on Election Day, August 7. The margin of error was 4.4%.

Results:

Percentage of voters ranking this statement as “Very Important”: “We need to keep politics out of the courts”:

Total: 70 %
Voters who voted to “Retain All” justices: 77%
Voters who voted to “Replace All” justices: 67%
Percentage of voters calling themselves “Very Concerned” about this issue: “Politically charged retention elections might put pressure on judges to decide cases based on public opinion”:

Total: 58%
Voters who voted to “Retain All” justices: 64%
Voters who voted to “Replace All” justices: 60%
Percentage of voters calling themselves “Very Concerned” about this issue: “The role that out of state interests played”:

Total: 43%
Voters who voted to “Retain All” justices: 55%
Voters who voted to “Replace All” justices: 38%
Ranked by “Very Concerned”:

“Politically charged retention elections might put pressure on judges to decide cases based on public opinion”

Total: 58 %
Voters voting to “Retain All”:

###

Justice at Stake is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to keep America’s courts fair and impartial. Justice at Stake and its 50-plus state and national partners educate the public, and work for reforms to keep politics and special interests out of the courtroom – so judges can protect our Constitution, our rights and the rule of law. For more about Justice at Stake, go to www.justiceatstake.org or www.gavelgrab.org.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *