Roughly two months ago, we posted the chart below that details peoples’ responses to a Pew question about who is the Chief Justice of the United States. Given the focus today on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the health care — and on Chief Justice John Roberts himself — we thought it was worth re-posting. Prepare to be amazed/depressed/shocked/amused.


While browsing around the Pew polling site this morning — and, yes, we do a fair amount of that — we came across a chart on the Supreme Court that reminded us, for the billionth time, that assuming the average person follows the back and forth of Washington as closely as we do is a major mistake.

Without further ado, here’s the chart:

So, yeah. A majority of people don’t know the name of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court United States. More frightening? Eight percent named Thurgood Marshall, who not only was never the Chief Justice but also died in 1993. And let’s not even talk about the four percent who think Harry Reid, a Senator not a member of the Supreme Court, is the Chief Justice.

Yes, the data is from the summer of 2010, which is almost two years ago now. And yes, with the Court more front and center in the news — Citizens United, health care — of late, it’s possible those able to name John Roberts as the Chief Justice may be slightly higher today. But, only slightly.

What the above chart proves is that analysis about how what the Court does — whether it’s what they have already done on Citizens United or what they might do with the Affordable Care Act — will impact the political landscape amounts to something close to a guessing game.

Regular people are simply not engaged — they don’t know or care — about the intricacies of the government in a way that people who live inside the Beltway and spend their lives in politics are.

It’s a lesson we have to re-learn constantly.