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Poll: Interest In Roberts Up

As John Roberts faces the Senate Judiciary Committee in hearings on his nomination to Chief Justice of the United States, more Americans are following his nomination than were just a couple of weeks ago. Fifty-four percent of Americans now say they are following his appointment closely, up from 44 percent two weeks ago.

FOLLOWING ROBERTS NOMINATION?

Now
Very closely
16%
Somewhat closely
38%
Not very/not at all closely
45%

Two weeks ago
Very closely
12%
Somewhat closely
32%
Not very/not at all closely
55%

Americans do think that the elevation of Roberts' nomination from Associate Justice to Chief Justice means the Senate will need to conduct an even more thorough investigation of him during the hearings. Fifty-three percent think that since Roberts' nomination has now been elevated to Chief Justice, the Senate needs to scrutinize him more closely than they would have if he were still under consideration as an Associate Justice. Thirty-two percent think he does not deserve more scrutiny.

SHOULD SENATE SCRUTINIZE ROBERTS MORE CLOSELY FOR CHIEF JUSTICE?

Yes
53%
No
32%

Views on this question are influenced by partisanship. Sixty-three percent of Democrats think he now deserves closer scrutiny, compared to only 39 percent of Republicans.

Nearly half think it is very important that the Senate know Roberts' position on issues such as abortion and affirmative action before they vote on his confirmation as Chief Justice. Another 31 percent think that is somewhat important. Those views are unchanged from two weeks ago.

IMPORTANT SENATE KNOWS ROBERTS' VIEWS ON ISSUES

Very
46%
Somewhat
31%
Not very/not at all
22%

Twenty-one percent think that Roberts' nomination to Chief Justice instead of Associate Justice makes it more important for him to answer questions about how he would vote on specific issues, and another 65 percent think that it is just as important as it was when he was nominated to Associate Justice.

IMPORTANCE OF ROBERTS' POSITIONS ON ISSUES NOW

More important
21%
Less Important
8%
About as important
65%

When asked whether the Senate ought to confirm Roberts right now, most Americans can't offer an opinion. Twenty-six percent think he should be confirmed.

SHOULD ROBERTS BE CONFIRMED BY THE SENATE AS CHIEF JUSTICE?

Yes
26%
No
8%
Can't say
63%


Not surprisingly, Republicans (51 percent) are much more likely than Democrats (13 percent) to think Roberts ought to be confirmed. Seventy percent of Democrats can't say now whether he ought to be confirmed, as do 46% of Republicans.

Overall views of Roberts have not changed much in the last couple of weeks. Twenty-five percent have a positive impression of him, 8 percent have a negative view, but most – 66 percent -- are undecided or haven't heard enough to have an opinion. About the same number – 61 percent -- are unable to evaluate Roberts' conservatism.

Fourteen percent think he is more conservative than they would like, 2 percent think he is not conservative enough, and 22 percent think his conservatism is about right. About two- thirds of Democrats and a similar number of Independents cannot evaluate Roberts' conservatism. Among Republicans, about half think his conservatism is about right.

POSITIONS ON THE ISSUES

Supreme Court nominees' positions on issues remain very important to Americans. Both now and two weeks ago, a majority of Americans believe the Senate ought to consider a Supreme Court nominee's positions on the issues in addition to their legal qualifications.

WHEN EVALUATING A COURT NOMINEE, SENATE SHOULD CONSIDER:

Now
Legal qualifications only
36%
Positions on issues also
54%

Two weeks ago
Legal qualifications only
33%
Positions on issues also
57%

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

Views are nearly identical when Americans are asked how a Chief Justice should be evaluated. Thirty-three percent think the Senate should only consider the legal qualifications of a nominee for Chief Justice, while 58 percent think the nominee's positions on the issues ought to factor into the decision.

WHEN EVALUATING A NOMINEE FOR CHIEF JUSTICE, SENATE SHOULD CONSIDER:

Legal qualifications only
33%
Positions on issues also
58%



This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1167 adults, interviewed by telephone September 9-13, 2005. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. An oversample of African Americans was also conducted for this poll, for a total of 211 interviews among this group. The margin of error for African Americans is plus or minus seven points.

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.

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