Public narrowly favors Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage, Voting Rights Act


Slightly more Americans approve than disapprove of the Supreme Court's decisions last week on gay marriage and the Voting Rights Act, but neither drew a resounding response, according to a new poll.

The Pew Research Center poll shows 45 percent of people approve of the Supreme Court's gay marriage rulings, in which the court struck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act and effectively allowed for gay marriage to move forward in California. Forty percent disapprove.

And when it comes to the Voting Rights Act, 33 percent approve of the court striking down the formula used to determine which areas of the country are susceptible to discrimination and require preclearance for electoral changes. One-quarter (25 percent) disapprove.

Americans remain split on both issues (though an increasing majority of people now support gay marriage) so these findings aren't all that surprising.

But they do suggest that the court's decisions haven't affected public opinion much on either issue. When it comes to the Voting Rights Act, they suggest Congress may not feel a sense of urgency to replace the formula used for preclearance.

Without that formula, there is effectively no need for jurisdictions -- particularly in the South -- to gain preclearance under the Voting Rights Act. The court said it's up to Congress to come up with a new formula, but Republicans have shown little desire to do so.

The poll shows people really don't know much about what the court decided. While 34 percent said that it overturned part of the Voting Rights Act, 23 percent said it left the law largely as-is.

(One could make the case that either or both of those statements are correct -- the preclearance section of the VRA is technically still in effect, though it has been rendered unworkable -- but the former is certainly the headline than anybody who was paying attention would have seen.)

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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