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Asked by Fox, Americans Find Supreme Court Justices Hard to Recall

By Robert Barnes
If history is a guide, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor will grab the attention of the nation this summer as the Senate decides on her confirmation -- and then quickly fade from view.

A new poll for Fox News is a good indication of how members of the one of the nation's most important institutions operate largely out of the public's consciousness. Asked "Which one of the current U.S. Supreme Court justices do you most admire or agree with?", half of the respondents had no idea. They either did not have an answer to the question or could not name a justice. On the silver lining front, the figure was 68 percent when the question was asked six years ago.

The "winner" in the poll, conducted last week, was Justice Clarence Thomas, perhaps the court's best-known and most controversial member. But he shared the top spot (11 percent) with -- drumroll -- Sandra Day O'Connor, who left the court in 2006.

From there, it is a lesson in humility: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (9 percent); Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. (8 percent), Justice Antonin Scalia (5 percent) and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy (3 percent). Each of the others received 1 percent, including the court's longest-serving justice, 34-year veteran John Paul Stevens, and its newest Samuel A. Alito Jr., who took O'Connor's place.

Extra credit time: Name the remaining two.

(Pause)

Right! Stephen G. Breyer and the (literally) retiring David H. Souter.

The results would not likely faze the justices, who revel in the anonymity that comes with not allowing cameras into their courtroom. Past and present justices have stories of wandering the court's marble palace unmolested by the tourists, at times even being asked to man the camera for a shot of the visitors posing with the statue of a justice who appears more famous.

Posted at 11:54 AM ET on Jun 16, 2009  | Category:  Supreme Court
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Several years ago another poll revealed that more Americans could name all five of the Three Stooges than could name five Supreme Court justices.

Posted by: rlritter | June 16, 2009 3:56 PM

This is hi-larious! Fox actually thought its audience knew something as unbiased as Supreme Court Justice names?

I'm ROTFL, that's so ridiculous. Really, what even compelled them to think it would be a good idea to ask? Do they not know that the only info their brain-washed viewers know is what's fed to them through the slurry they call "reporting"?

Unless O'Reilly or Beck are about to bust arteries screaming about it, their viewers "know" nothing.

Posted by: nagatuki | June 16, 2009 3:45 PM

This only proves that the people screaming the most about activist judges have no clue as to who they are referring to!

This is just like the people down in Alabama court house fighting and going to jail to prevent the removal of the 2-ton rock displaying the Ten Commandments and none of the people could name more than two of the commandments!

Posted by: SteelWheel25 | June 16, 2009 3:44 PM

Not surprising that Scalia is not #1. Deaf ears are usually turned to the sharpest voice of reason.

Posted by: Bluefish2012 | June 16, 2009 3:33 PM

I always have problems remembering "Bashful."

Posted by: truamerican | June 16, 2009 2:45 PM

Big surprise. A better question would have been 'Can you name a Supreme Court justice?' because most people would not be able to name a single one.

Asking 'Which one of the current U.S. Supreme Court justices do you most admire or agree with?' implies that you not only know most or all of the justices, but follow their decisions and statements on cases. Seriously, that's a tiny, tiny fraction of the U.S. population. That question might make sense in a constitutional law class, but not in many other places.

Posted by: g99999 | June 16, 2009 2:41 PM

Please proofread. I didn't know if the headline should be "asked" or "axed".

Declining circulation - I wonder why.

Posted by: rlj1 | June 16, 2009 12:40 PM

Does anyone proof read this stuff any more? Aked? I think he meant Asked.

Posted by: lloydpaul | June 16, 2009 12:36 PM

It's faze, not phase.

Posted by: webbrats | June 16, 2009 12:27 PM

I would have thought that the loud-mouth Scalia would have the highest recognition.

Posted by: nodebris | June 16, 2009 12:16 PM

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