University of Denver

New Poll Shows that Voters Have Increasing Concerns about Judicial Impartiality

Former Manager, Quality Judges Initiative

According to a new poll commissioned by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice, nearly nine in ten voters (87 percent) believe that judicial campaign support—whether in the form of direct contributions or independent spending—influences judicial decisions. This figure is a sharp increase from similar polls conducted over the last decade, which fairly consistently showed that three fourths of voters thought campaign contributions had "some" or "a great deal" of influence on judicial decisions. Representatives of Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center speculate that these heightened concerns could be a reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United or to a marked rise in judicial election spending, particularly by outside groups, in recent years.

In the same poll, 92 percent of voters said that a judge should recuse herself from a case when one of the parties has either donated directly to the judge's campaign or spent significantly on election materials designed to help elect the judge.

Poll results were released as part of the roll-out for "The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2011-12."