Poll: Court Nominee's Views Count

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit shows Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. Roberts is a possible nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. (AP Photo/R. Strauss, Smithsonian, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit) AP/Court of Appeals, DC

Even before John Roberts was nominated for Chief Justice of the United States, most Americans said a Court nominee's positions on issues -- and not just his or her legal background -- should be considered in confirmation hearings. And while a majority of Americans couldn't say whether Roberts should have been confirmed as an Associate Justice, most thought he eventually would have been confirmed to sit on the Supreme Court.

In a shift from July, the public now thinks the Senate should consider a Supreme Court nominee's positions on issues in addition to his or her legal background. According to last week's poll, 57 percent said a nominee's opinions on issues should be considered, while 33 percent thought the Senate should consider only a nominee's legal qualifications and background. Even more Americans said a nominee's position on the issues should be considered than did so during the nomination processes of Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork.

WHEN EVALUATING NOMINEE, SENATE SHOULD CONSIDER:

Legal qualifications only
Now
33%
Last month
46%
9/1991 (Thomas)
39%
9/1987 (Bork)
39%

Positions on issues also
Now
57%
Last month
46%
9/1991 (Thomas)
49%
9/1987 (Bork)
52%

In addition, when asked specifically about John Roberts, nearly eight in 10 said it is important that the Senate know Roberts' positions on issues such as abortion and affirmative action before confirming him, including 46 percent who say it is "very important." 64 percent of Democrats said it is "very important" to know his positions on these issues, compared to just 30 percent of Republicans. Women were also more likely than men to say knowing Roberts' views on issues like abortion and affirmative action is "very important."

IMPORTANT FOR SENATE TO KNOW ROBERTS' POSITION ON ISSUES LIKE ABORTION AND AFFIRMATIVE ACTION?

Very
46%
Somewhat
32%
Not very/not at all
21%

This poll was conducted before the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Six in ten Americans couldn't say then whether the Senate should confirm Roberts to the Supreme Court. 26 percent said he should be confirmed, while one in ten said he should not.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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