Poll: Roberts Unknown To Most

President Bush, right, stands alongside his nominee for the Supreme Court, John G. Roberts Jr., after having breakfast at the White House Wednesday, July 20, 2005 in Washington. Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts begins his confirmation campaign Wednesday to nail down Republican Senate support and overcome Democrats' fears that he would push the nation's highest court far to the right on abortion and other polarizing issues. AP

Fewer than half of Americans are following news about the recent appointment of John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court, and a majority is unable to offer an opinion of the nominee. But even though few are excited about the Roberts nomination, at this point, most expect he will be confirmed by the Senate. Americans, however, are divided over whether the confirmation hearings will be conducted in a non-partisan manner or whether they will be more contentious.

Forty-three percent think Republican and Democratic Senators will conduct the Roberts confirmation hearings in a fair and non-partisan manner, but 47 percent expect the parties will not be able to work together.

WILL REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS WORK TOGETHER?

Yes, will work together
43%
No, will not work together
47%

Republicans are slightly more concerned than Democrats that the parties will not be able to work together during the confirmation hearings.

THE NOMINEE

Over two-thirds either haven't heard enough about Roberts or are undecided in their views of him. Those who do have an opinion hold a favorable one: 25 percent view Roberts favorably, while just 7 percent view the nominee unfavorably.

Half of Republicans have a favorable opinion of Roberts, while Democrats are more divided – and unsure. Eight in 10 Democrats are unable to rate Roberts. Among those following the nomination very closely, 60 percent have a favorable opinion of Roberts, but it should be noted that those following the nomination very closely are twice as likely to be Republicans as Democrats.

Overall views of Roberts are similar to those expressed in past CBS News Polls about Clarence Thomas in September 1991, before the public allegations of sexual harassment made by law professor Anita Hill. Fewer people were able to offer opinions of David Souter and Robert Bork when they were nominated to the Supreme Court.

JOHN ROBERTS VS. PAST NOMINEES

Roberts
Favorable
25%
Thomas
Favorable
26%
Souter
Favorable
13%
Bork
Favorable
11%

Roberts
Unfavorable
7%
Thomas
Unfavorable
10%
Souter
Unfavorable
5%
Bork
Unfavorable
12%

Roberts
Undecided
17%
Thomas
Undecided
22%
Souter
Undecided
13%
Bork
Undecided
13%

Roberts
Haven't heard enough
51%
Thomas
Haven't heard enough
42%
Souter
Haven't heard enough
68%
Bork
Haven't heard enough
63%

Moreover, on a more detailed measure, attitudes toward Mr. Bush's appointment of Roberts are mixed. Only 6 percent of Americans say they are excited about the nomination of Roberts, 38 percent are optimistic about the nomination, but 34 percent admit they are concerned. Six percent say they are scared about this nomination.

FEELINGS ON ROBERTS APPOINTMENT

Excited
6%
Optimistic, but not excited
38%
Concerned, but not scared
34%
Scared
6%

Those most excited are Republicans (16 percent), conservatives (14 percent) and white evangelicals (10 percent). Those most likely to be scared about the Roberts nomination are liberals (16 percent) and Democrats (12 percent).

Nearly six in 10 say the Roberts nomination is about as important as most nominations to the court. Twenty-five percent say this nomination is more important, while just 5 percent think it is less important. Americans frequently think Court nominations matter: these opinions are not very different than those in 1987 when Bork was nominated to the Supreme Court. Bork was ultimately not confirmed by the Senate.
  • Sean Alfano

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