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Research: 57% of people admit they are ‘not very familiar’ with the Supreme Court

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7% haven’t heard of it at all, but court still confident its outreach is improving

Image via @lukehughesco
Image via @lukehughesco

A university study has revealed that, despite a recent wave of high-profile cases, most people aren’t very familiar with the Supreme Court.

Of the 3,278 people surveyed between 12-16 January, only 108 (3%) said they were “very familiar” with the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, and 947 (29%) “somewhat familiar”.

By far the biggest proportion of respondents (57%) admitted they were “not very familiar” with the highest appeal court in the land, with 1,878 people ticking that box. Two hundred and thirty six (7%) people confessed they hadn’t even heard of the court, while 110 (3%) said they didn’t know how familiar they were with it.

How familiar are you with the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom?

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According to the University of East Anglia (UEA) — for which this survey was carried out — these figures are “almost identical” to those from a 2012 survey by the British Election Study team. In that survey, the same percentage (32%) said they were very or somewhat familiar with the court.

On this, Dr Chris Hanretty, the politics researcher at UEA who designed the survey, said:

One of the arguments for setting up the Supreme Court was that it would have greater visibility — that it might become a ‘great conspicuous tribunal’… That doesn’t seem to have happened.

But the Supreme Court doesn’t seem that bothered. A spokesperson said:

The survey appears to suggest that 90% of people have heard of the Supreme Court, which represents a significant impact since 2009 when as many as 72% of respondents to a similar poll said that very few people were aware of the court.

He continued:

It is hardly surprising that most people chose not to describe themselves as ‘familiar’ with a court, but this doesn’t mean that the Supreme Court hasn’t engaged many more people in its work than was ever possible when the UK’s top judges sat as a committee of the House of Lords.

Whatever the survey results, its undeniable that, every now and again at least, there are Supreme Court cases that really capture the imagination of the public.

Perhaps most notably is the Article 50 legal challenge. Splashed all over the newspapers since the claim was issued, the Supreme Court will rule on this case on 24 January.

Then there’s the Paulley case, in which the court decided bus operators should be legally required to “pressurise” non-wheelchair users to vacate wheelchair space if a disabled person needs access.

Handed down on Wednesday, the public is still debating whether the court reached the correct decision in the long fought ‘wheelchair vs pram’ debate.

In this morning’s Metro Talk segment, one commenter described the ruling as “disgusting”. He said:

[The law] should remain as it was — first come, first served.

Another said Paulley’s victory “does not go far enough”, stating bus drivers should be entitled to fine buggy users who refuse to move for wheelchairs.

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