President-elect Barack Obama is expected to have the opportunity to appoint several justices to the Supreme Court, with much of the speculation centered on Justice John Paul Stevens, the oldest and longest-serving of the nine. While Stevens is giving few signals about when he intends to step down, voters who cast their ballots with the high court in mind made some of their views known on Election Day.
The SCOTUS bloc is a slim group. Few, 7 percent, singled out the court as their top voting consideration, though more than half called appointments to the high court an important factor according to network exit polls.
Overall, voters who gave the court some weight in deciding how to vote split 52 percent for Obama, 46 percent for McCain. Those who said it was their top issue broke more heavily for the Democrat, 57 percent to 41 percent.
About half of those who considered the court the most important factor in their vote were Democrats - 46 percent compared with 39 percent among all voters - but ideologically, SCOTUS-focused voters were similar to the electorate as a whole (22 percent were liberals, 41 percent moderates, 36 percent conservatives).
Still, the issue was as strong a rallying point for conservatives as liberals: Liberal Democrats who considered the court a top concern went for Obama by a staggering 99 to 1 percent margin, while 95 percent of conservative Republicans in that group opted for McCain. Moderates who called the court a factor split 63 percent Obama, 37 percent McCain, little different from those who did not take it into account.
Those who viewed Obama's policy positions as "too liberal," regardless of their own ideological bent, were more likely to give some weight to court appointments in deciding how to vote; in this group, 58 percent said the court was a factor, compared with 52 percent among those who saw Obama as "about right".
One additional facet: Voters who called the court an important factor in their vote may be looking for an alternative to a disappointing legislative branch. More than half are deeply dissatisfied with Congress (52 percent strongly disapprove of Congress' job, it's 38 percent among the electorate overall), and these voters are more evenly divided than voters overall on an increased role for government, 46 percent prefer greater government intervention, 44 percent think such problem-solving is best left to businesses and individuals.