Public On O'Connor's Successor

In this film publicity image released by Sony Pictures, the movie poster for Michael Jackson's "This is It," film, is shown. (AP Photo/Sony Pictures) AP Photo/Sony Pictures

As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court, steps down from her 24-year tenure on the Supreme Court, this year's CBS News Poll results offer guidance on what the public wants to see in the process that will select her replacement.

Earlier this year, a CBS News/New York Times Poll found just under half of Americans expecting that President Bush would nominate a justice with ideological views about right for them. One in three believed Bush's nominees would be more conservative than they would like, and 15 percent thought his nominees would not be conservative enough.

BUSH'S SUPREME COURT APPOINTMENTS WOULD PROBABLY BE…
(January 2005)

More conservative than you'd like
33%
Not conservative enough
15%
About right
44%

Half of Democrats think Bush's nominees would be more conservative than they would like, while most Republicans think Bush's nominees would be about right.

In that same poll, most Americans said they expected that any new justice appointed by the President would be someone who would ultimately vote to make abortion against the law.

JUSTICES APPOINTED BY BUSH WOULD…
(January 2005)

Keep abortion legal
15%
Make abortion against the law
71%

Most Americans, given a choice, would not choose to outlaw all abortions, though some would support stricter limits than exist now.

When it comes to federal court appointments in general, Americans say long Senate deliberations before approval are fine with them. In May's CBS News Poll, Americans overwhelmingly said Congress should take as much time as it needs to review new nominees, as opposed to confirming them as quickly as possible.

WHEN REVIEWING FEDERAL JUDGES, CONGRESS SHOULD…
(May 2005)

Take as much time as it needs
70%
Review and confirm quickly as possible
25%

Most Americans think it should take more than a simple majority of votes in the Senate to move ahead to confirm a Supreme Court justice. 64 percent think it ought to take 60 votes to move ahead, and 31 percent think 51 votes are sufficient.

SENATE VOTES NEEDED TO MOVE AHEAD WITH CONFIRMING SUPREME COURT JUSTICE
(May 2005)

51 votes
31%
60 votes
64%

By a wide margin, the public also wants the two parties to agree on any judicial nominee, rather than allowing the majority party to decide. 79 percent think both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have to agree that a person should become a judge, even if that takes a long time. 14 percent think that because Republicans have the majority of Senators, Republicans should get to decide whether a person should be a judge, even if Democrats disagree.

Americans split on whether filibustering judicial nominees is generally a good or bad thing. 36 percent called it a good thing because it lets the Democrats express their views; 33 percent said the procedure obstructs the will of the majority Republicans. Many had no opinion on the filibuster's impact. Not surprisingly, half of Democrats perceived the filibuster as mostly good, while a majority of Republicans saw it as mostly bad.

THE FILIBUSTER IS…
(May 2005)

Mostly good - gives Democrats a voice
36%
Mostly bad – blocks Republican proposals
33%
Don't know/No opinion
26%

The issue of federal judges is an important one to Americans, both Republicans and Democrats. Seven in ten see the matter as extremely or very important.

ISSUE OF FEDERAL COURT JUDGES IS…
(May 2005)

Extremely important
28%
Very important
40%
Somewhat important
24%
Not at all important
7%

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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