History of Reform Efforts
Opinion Polls and Surveys
According to a statewide survey of Alabamians, 44% favored merit selection, 26% preferred nonpartisan elections, 18% approved of partisan elections, and 13% were undecided. Birmingham News (March/1997)
Of the 81% of respondent judges who supported changing the current elective system, 72% approved of nonpartisan elections. Responses were skewed along party lines, with nonpartisan elections heavily favored by judges who identified themselves as Democrats. 57% of respondents opposed a merit selection system. About half of the state's judges responded to the survey. Mobile Register-University of South Alabama (March/2000)
85% of Alabamians believed electing judges is the best method. Between 80 and 85% of those polled did not know 11 of the 12 candidates who ran in 2000 for the Alabama Supreme Court. Alabama Circuit Judges Association and District Judges Association (January/2001)
83% of members of these associations supported legislation switching from partisan to nonpartisan elections.
We have not identified recent opinion polls and surveys related to judicial selection in Arkansas.
53% of California judges reported being dissatisfied with the tone and conduct of judicial campaigns, and 62% indicated that the situation had gotten worse over the past five years. 87% expressed concern that, because voters had little information about judicial candidates, judges were selected for reasons other than their qualifications. 53% supported a generic proposal for public financing of judicial campaigns.
District of Columbia
60% of Florida judges reported that the tone and conduct of judicial campaigns have gotten worse over the last five years. 68% said they were under pressure to raise money for their campaigns during election years, and 30% believed campaign contributions made to judges have at least some influence on their decisions. 56% supported a generic proposal for public financing of judicial elections.
67% of Idaho voters believed that judges' decisions were influenced by campaign contributions. 40% indicated that judicial campaigns had gotten worse since 1998. 68% strongly supported merit selection and retention of judges. 60% favored publicly financed elections. 24% reported having no information about judicial candidates.
72% of Illinois judges believed that the tone and conduct of judicial campaigns had gotten worse over the last five years. 69% supported a generic proposal for public financing of judicial campaigns. 91% were concerned that, because voters have little information about judicial candidates, judges are often selected for reasons other than their qualifications. Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (2002)
More than 85% believed campaign contributions influence judicial decisions. Three out of four voters favored limits on campaign contributions to judicial candidates, and over 60% supported a voluntary system of public financing of judicial campaigns. 78% reported not having enough information about judicial candidates. Nearly 70% preferred nonpartisan elections to partisan elections. We Ask America (2009)
Illinois voters preferred nonpartisan judicial elections by a margin of nearly three and a half to one. 83% said that education and experience were better qualifications for judicial candidates than political endorsements or backing.
55% of respondents believed that voters should have the greatest input into who serves on the Kansas Supreme Court. 63% supported changing the way that members of the supreme court nominating commission are selected.
In a poll of 600 Michigan voters, 63% believed that campaign contributions affect the decisions judges make, with 31% saying campaign contributions make ‘a lot’ of difference.
59% of Minnesotans agreed that campaign contributions affect the decisions of Minnesota judges. 77% were concerned about judicial candidates having to raise campaign funds, run TV ads, and seek political party and special interest support. By a margin of 74% to 16%, respondents supported a constitutional amendment calling for merit selection of judges, judicial performance evaluations, and retention elections.
According to a statewide poll, 71% of Missourians supported the current system of judicial selection, and 73% wanted judges to be independent of elected officials like the governor and state legislature. Only 1 of every 50 respondents saw changing the way judges are selected as a top priority for state government. Federalist Society (February/2007)
68% of respondents reported having trust and confidence that the Missouri Supreme Court makes decisions based on law rather than political beliefs. 65% supported changing the way that members of the appellate judicial commission are selected. Federalist Society (September/2007)
65% of respondents supported changing the way that members of the appellate judicial commission are selected. 60% believed that the governor should be able to reject the first list of nominees and request a second list from the commission.
Justice at Stake Campaign (2001)
52% of New York judges reported that they were under pressure to raise campaign funds during election years, 68% strongly supported disclosure of campaign contributions, and nearly 74% favored a generic proposal for public financing of judicial elections.
Marist Institute for Public Opinion (2003)
83% of New Yorkers believed that campaign contributions have some or a great deal of influence on judicial decisions, and 87% stated that judges should not be allowed to hear cases involving campaign contributors. 79% of voters believed that having to run for reelection has at least some influence on judges' decisions, and 78% believed that poltical parties have a great deal or some influence. Click here for complete poll results.
84% of voters expressed concern that lawyers are some of the biggest contributors to judicial candidates, and 78% believed that campaign contributions have at least some influence on judges' decisions. 89% of voters wanted judicial elections to be conducted independently of political parties. 57% reported having little or no information about judicial candidates in the last election. 77% supported judicial reform in the general assembly before the 2004 elections, and 71% favored the proposals embodied in the Judicial Campaign Reform Act.
55% of Ohio judges reported being dissatisfied with the tone and conduct of judicial campaigns, and 81% indicated that the situation had gotten worse over the past five years. 75% expressed concern that special interests were trying to use the courts to shape policy. 57% supported a generic proposal for public financing of judicial elections. League of Women Voters Survey (2002)
49% of voters believed that campaign contributions influence judges and judicial candidates to a great extent, and 34% believed that campaign contributions influenced judges and judicial candidates to some extent. 23% strongly agreed and 41% agreed that significant reform of the current judicial campaign finance system is required. 49% strongly agreed and 40% agreed that every source of financial support for judicial candidates should be fully disclosed.
64% of Pennsylvania judges reported being dissatisfied with the tone and conduct of judicial campaigns, and 69% indicated that the situation had gotten worse over the past five years. 72% expressed concern that special interests were trying to use the courts to shape policy. 59% supported a generic proposal for merit selection and retention of judges. Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts (2007)
According to a statewide survey, 56% of Pennsylvanians supported merit selection of state judges. American Judicature Society/Committee for Economic Development/Justice at Stake Campaign (2010)
62% of respondents favored replacing partisan election of appellate judges with merit selection. 73% reported that they did not believe that the most qualified candidates win elections. 76% believed that campaign contributions influence judicial decision making.
59% of respondents believed that voters should have the greatest input into who serves on the Tennessee Supreme Court. 47% disapproved of the state's merit-selection-and-retention system for supreme court justices.
52% of respondents supported judicial elections, while only 14% supported an appointive system. Of those who favored electing judges, 62% preferred nonpartisan elections. 55% agreed that judges who are elected are more vulnerable to political pressure than are appointed judges. 72% believed judges' decisions in some cases were influenced by political pressure from campaign contributions. Texas Supreme Court (1998)
83% of Texas citizens, 69% of court personnel, and 79% of Texas attorneys believed that campaign contributions influenced judicial decisions "very significantly" or "fairly significantly." In addition, 48% of judges indicated that they believed money had an impact on judicial decisions. Texas Supreme Court/State Bar/OCA (1999)
42% of attorneys, 52% of judges, and 54% of court personnel preferred nonpartisan election of judges. Only 11% of attorneys, 21% of judges, and 26% of court personnel supported partisan elections as a means of selecting judges. 48% of judges, 69% of court personnel, and 79% of attorneys believed that campaign contributions had a "fairly" or "very" significant influence on judicial decisions. Justice at Stake Campaign (2001)
50% of Texas judges reported being dissatisfied with the tone and conduct of judicial campaigns, and 28% believed that judicial campaign contributions had at least some influence on their decisions. Campaigns for People (2002)
59% of Texas voters disagreed with the statement that "judges should be appointed, rather than elected, by the governor and legislature," with 45% strongly disagreeing. 83% of voters supported nonpartisan elections. 77% of voters believed campaign contributions to judges had a "great deal" or a "fair amount" of influence on their decisions. 73% favored a public financing proposal for judicial elections. 55% reported having little or no information regarding judicial candidates in the last election, and 86% supported voter guides for judicial elections.
26% of Washington voters rated nonpartisan judicial elections as a "good" or "very good" process for selecting judges, while 60% described a judicial merit selection system as "good" or "very good." More than 60% expressed a preference for adopting a merit selection system, and more than 90% supported the development of a judicial performance evaluation program.
According to a poll of a random sample of 600 voters, 37% of West Virginians preferred merit selection of judges, 36% favored nonpartisan judicial elections, and 19% approved of partisan elections.
According to a statewide poll, 65% of Wisconsin voters supported a plan to offer public financing to qualified supreme court candidates. 77% agreed that the legislature and the governor needed to take action on judicial campaign reform before the next election. Justice at Stake (July/2011)
According to a statewide poll, public confidence in the Wisconsin Supreme Court is 33%, and over 80% of respondents were aware of physical and verbal conflicts among justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Asked about their judicial selection system, 23% of respondents supported merit selection, with 18% undecided.