Poll: Opinion Of Roberts Undecided

Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, left, speaks as U.S. President Bush looks on in the Oval Office of the White House Monday, Sept. 5, 2005, in Washington. President Bush on Monday nominated John Roberts to succeed William H. Rehnquist as chief justice, and called on the Senate to confirm him before the Supreme Court opens its fall term on Oct. 3. AP

As confirmation hearings begin on the nomination of John Roberts as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, many Americans haven't yet made up their minds about the nominee. According to a CBS News Poll taken from Aug. 29 - Aug. 31, 49 percent of those surveyed could not say whether they thought Roberts should or should not be confirmed. Thirty-five percent said he should be, and 10 percent said he should not.

The change of Roberts' nomination from Associate Justice to Chief Justice hasn't made much difference in those views. They are similar to last week when a CBS News Poll from Aug. 29-31 asked Americans if Roberts should be confirmed as an Associate Justice: then, as now, most could not say.

SHOULD ROBERTS BE CONFIRMED BY THE SENATE AS…?

Chief Justice, Sept. 6-7
Yes
35%
No
10%
Can't say
49%

Associate Justice, Aug. 29-31
Yes
26%
No
9%
Can't say
60%

Almost two-thirds of Republicans today want Roberts confirmed, with another third unable to say yet. Most Democrats are withholding judgment, with six in ten unable to say what should happen yet. Just one in five Democrats is opposed to the nomination right now.

Recent history suggests that the public is reluctant to weigh in on a particular nominee before confirmation hearings commence. Prior to confirmation hearings for then-nominee Clarence Thomas, 59 percent couldn't say whether or not he should be confirmed. Also, before Robert Bork's confirmation hearings in 1987, 66 percent couldn't say decide whether he should be confirmed or not.

SHOULD ... BE CONFIRMED BY THE SENATE?

Roberts, Sept. 6-7
Yes
35%
No
10%
Can't say
49%

Thomas, Sept. 1991
Yes
24%
No
11%
Can't say
59%

Bork, Sept. 1987
Yes
14%
No
13%
Can't say
66%

Thinking ahead to what topics hearings ought to be covered, most Americans say a Court nominee's positions on issues – and not just his or her legal background - should be considered in the hearings. In the late August poll, 57 percent said a nominee's opinions on issues should be considered in a nomination process, while 33 percent thought the Senate should consider only a nominee's legal qualifications and background. This marks a change from July, when fewer Americans wanted such considerations, and also higher than during the nomination processes of Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork.

WHEN EVALUATING A COURT NOMINEE, SENATE SHOULD CONSIDER:

Roberts, Aug. 29-31
Legal qualifications only
33%
Positions on issues also
57%

Roberts, July 2005
Legal qualifications only
46%
Positions on issues also
46%

Thomas, Sept. 1991
Legal qualifications only
39%
Positions on issues also
49%

Bork, Sept. 1987
Legal qualifications only
39%
Positions on issues also
52%

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