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?


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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Not Amused

This is all very much ‘old think’.

In the old think world, a 4th rate intellectual body produce a poorly carried out and extremely limited ‘study’ of a public sector body. Said ‘study’ is then called evidence (which it is not) and accepted as true. Said public sector body then pretends it is upset by the conclusion of the ‘evidence’ (although it often later transpires it, in fact, commissioned it). Pressure is then applied to Government to increase funding and employment at said public sector body.

No actual improvement in services, or attempt to correct the ‘problem’ occurs.

This was, until last year ‘truth’. It was ‘evidence based reasoning’. It was quite clearly not true, nor was it evidence, nor was it reasoning: and has now been widely condemned by electorates in both the US and the UK.

Fortunately we now live in a ‘post truth era’. The adherents to ‘truth’ are very upset by this. Everyone else is very glad.

Teach kids about the SC in school. Stop wasting public money on anything else.



Not Amused I agree with the majority of your posts, but you often claim the solution to a problem is developing awareness at school, apparently without consideration of the fact that there is a finite number of hours in a school day.

It’s a bit of a zero sum game – if you say something should be taught then you should say something currently being taught should make way.


Not Amused (fake)

I’m sick to death of your criticism. Remember that it’s another human being you’re saying these nasty things to



I think we all know that you are not real, but either a chatbot sent to troll us all, or Alex doing the same thing.


Not Amused

This is not me.

I would have pointed out that schools need to start sitting 8am to 6pm anyway (to solve a lot of issues) and that I am sure teaching the basics of the constitution (which every other western country does) could be done in that time.



The people who aren’t familiar with the Supreme Court probably just to happen to be the ones that blindly criticise them using typical Brexiteer lexicon like “Enemy of democracy” or “Taking back our sovereignty”



I’m amazed that it isn’t widely known that death penalty appeals for former colonies are still heard in this building by British judges.



We don’t talk about that, remember. It’s our judiciary’s dirty little secret that they are still deciding capital cases for the Caribbean in Parliament Square in 2017.

Even the Law Lords when giving judgment out loud talk about “the sentence”. They don’t mention the “D” word.

When commuting “the sentence of death” in the written judgments, the “…of death” is silent in the spoken judgment.

I’ve been to one. It was underwhelming.


Orinoco McWomble

More Spondollochs from LC. An appearance before the house of lords is a once in a life time occurrence for most lawyers and most have never even entered it or know where it is or where its entrances and exits are.
The figure for the general public must be < 1%.


The Lord Harley of Counsel

Not for me- I’m a regular there with my Pro Bono practice.

I’ve lost count of how many capital cases I have won in the past year.



Much as you lost track of that £111,000 in the JAFLAS accounts?


The Lard Harley of Counsel

I know nothing of which you speak.





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