This page was last updated on 2/21/2020
Because the judicial branch relies heavily on public support to perform its role in our system of government, public trust and confidence is a precious commodity for the courts. While most people have at least a moderate amount of trust in the courts, this is unequally distributed, as minority members tend to express less confidence due to their assessment of fairness within court procedures. Furthermore, contact with the courts appears to make very little difference in court perception, as most opinions about the courts appear to come from the media, including news reports and television dramas.
Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may
be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.
The 2018 national survey, performed by GBA Strategies, shows confidence in state courts is the highest since the start of the State of the State Courts series (2014). The public strongly believes that judges should base pretrial release decisions on factors other than ability to pay. Additionally, a majority of respondents say they are unprepared to represent themselves in court.
The 2017 national survey, performed by GBA Strategies, reveals consistency across the years on core measures of job performance and public trust in state courts. Access to justice in rural and under-populated areas is an area of concern. A majority believes that judges are not in touch with community concerns.
The 2016 national survey, performed by GBA Strategies, found that public trust figures are at their highest in several years. The survey also found that there is strong public support for reform on issues related to court fines and fees, and considerable opposition to incarcerating defendants that are too poor to pay.
The 2015 national survey, performed by GBA Strategies, focused on three main issues identified by the 2014 Survey: customer service, inefficiency, and bias. The 2015 survey was based on a poll of 1,000 registered voters and was also administered to an over-sample of 200 African Americans. Across the board, African Americans responded to the 2015 survey with less trust and confidence in the courts than the overall sample.
The National Center for State Courts contracted with GBA Strategies to conduct a comprehensive public opinion survey of 1,000 registered voters. The survey was conducted by telephone between November 12-16, 2014. Survey findings are considered accurate within +/- 3.1 percent, 19 times out of 20. Key findings of the survey include that courts remain the most trusted branch of government, court users express confidence in fairness of proceedings, but have doubts about customer service and job performance, there is a strong demand for greater availability of online services, and the public worries that politics undermines the impartiality of the court system.
As state courts review and modify public-access policy in response to Internet technology and concerns about privacy, they do so within a new national landscape of data regulation that requires increased compliance, security, and accountability, not only from courts but also from executive-branch agencies and the private sector.
A long-simmering, but often tacit debate questions whether sentencing discretion should reflect best efforts to reduce recidivism. Smart-sentencing trends embrace that responsibility and enlist a wide range of strategies in pursuit of evidence-based decisions that earn public trust and confidence through accountability for public safety.
The technological revolution is now part of our popular culture and that popular culture is directly reflected in our juries, as it should be in a system that puts its faith in the people. The court system needs to find ways to keep pace.
This guide seeks to inform judges and court administrators about what can be learned from communities establishing court-community collaborations.
The NAP is a unique product in the sense that it is not a formal plan with a hierarchy of goals, objectives, programs, and implementation steps specific to one organization. It is, instead, a guide for national organizations that want to relate their strategic plans and programs to state strategies for building public trust and confidence in the courts, and for state and local organizations seeking information on public trust and confidence activities in other states and from the national organizations.
A National Survey of Public Expectations on Solving Justice Issues conducted on behalf of the National Center for State Courts by Princeton Survey Research Associates Intl.
Survey done of all fifty states in final report form done on community relations and projects. The purpose of these projects, such as "Meet Your Judges" forums, is to educate and ferment public trust in the court system.
A flurry of recent, and a large body of not so recent, state and national public opinion surveys reveal a consistent core message on what the public likes and dislikes about the state courts. Perceptions that courts are too costly, too slow, unfair in the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities, out of touch with the public, and negatively influenced by political considerations are widely held. Overall, more believe courts handle cases in an excellent manner.
Americans hold views about the courts in their communities that are in some respects reassuring and in other respects very troubling, and in still other respects contradictory. Overall, the courts received an average rating from the American public. The core of the courts’ positive image is the perception that courts meet their constitutional obligations to protect the rights of defendants, ensure that litigants have adequate legal representation, and that judges are honest and fair in their case decisions. The American public, as represented by the respondents to this survey, also approved of the courtesy and respect with which court staff treat those with business before the courts.
This report addresses two questions fundamental to understanding contemporary public opinion about the courts. First, what differences exist in how African-Americans, Latinos, and Whites view the state courts? Second, what difference does recent direct court experience make in the opinions people hold about the state courts? The differences examined are in support for the courts, the perceived quality with which courts handle cases, the fairness of court procedures and court outcomes, and the willingness of individuals with recent court experience to return to court on a similar matter in the future. Reference is to the "courts in your community."
This "primer" summarizes and puts in context what survey research has to say concerning public opinion about courts, especially local trial courts. The emphasis is on topics relevant to the needs of court managers as consumers of public opinion surveys, while also looking ahead to "Symposium 2000: Meeting the Justice Needs of a Multi-Cultural Society."
This survey of 1,200 American adults is believed to be the first ever survey to measure the public’s perceptions of how the executive, legislative and judicial branches work together on public policy issues that affect the administration of justice. The poll was paid for by the NCSC, the Pew Center on the States, and the State Justice Institute.
A Survey of the Public and Attorneys, Part I: Findings and Recommendations summarizes the main findings and policy implications drawn from the analysis of a 2005 opinion survey. The opinion survey was sponsored by the Judicial Council of California to assist the council in its strategic planning process. Between November 2004 and February 2005, some 2,400 randomly selected California adults were interviewed by telephone; in addition, some 500 randomly selected practicing attorneys provided their opinions through internet and telephone interviews. The survey highlighted the centrality of concerns over the fairness of court procedures to the assessments made by members of the public about their courts and the distinctive experiences with and views of the court system reported by recent immigrants.