The Supreme Court is ‘no better known’ than it was four years ago, according to a university-backed survey.
The survey, for the University of East Anglia, found the proportion of people who say they are ‘aware of the court’ has not increased since a similar study in 2012.
More than 3,000 residents were asked whether they were ‘very familiar’, ‘somewhat familiar’, ‘not very familiar’ or had never heard of the court.
Just under a third (32%) said they were ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ familiar with the court while around 10.5% of respondents either said they had never heard of the court, or that they did not know whether or not they were familiar with it.
According to the university, the figures are almost identical to a British Election Study team survey from 2012.
In that survey, 1,132 people were asked about their attitudes to the Supreme Court; 32% saying they were ‘very or somewhat’ familiar with the institution, which was established in 2009.
Chris Hanretty, a researcher in UEA’s school of politics who designed the survey, said it was surprising that the court was ‘no better known than it was four years ago’.
Hanretty 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. Maybe the [Brexit] Article 50 case will be the case that propels the court into the public imagination – for better or worse,’ he added.
However a Supreme Court spokesman had a more positive interpretation of the 10.5% figure, saying it ‘appeared to suggest that 90% of respondents have heard of the court’.
‘This represents a significant impact since 2009 when as many as 72% of respondents to a poll [by ComRes] said that very few people were aware of the court.’
The spokesperson said the court welcomes 100,000 visitors every year and provides around 350 free tours for schools and colleges. More than 320,000 people watched the first day of the Article 50 appeal via its streaming service.
The spokesperson added: ‘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.’
The court will announce its decision on the Article 50 case on Tuesday, 24 January.