Support for Sotomayor Essentially Unchanged After Hearings

by Lydia Saad

Slight majority, now 55%, have continuously favored her confirmation

PRINCETON, NJ -- Senate Judiciary committee hearings last week on the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court did little to change public attitudes about her confirmation. The 55% majority of Americans now in favor of her winning confirmation is essentially the same as the 53% in favor a week ago.


According to the new USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted July 17-19, 36% of Americans are against the Senate voting to confirm Sotomayor. This is also similar to the 33% that took this position in the July 10-12 Gallup survey, but is up slightly from the 28% who were opposed after she was first nominated by President Barack Obama in May. Since May, support for Sotomayor has been stable in the mid-50s, but opposition has grown as the percentage with no opinion has dropped by half.

Initial support for Sotomayor was similar to that seen for other recent Supreme Court nominees. However, the subsequent eight-percentage-point increase in opposition to her serving on the Supreme Court is on the high side when compared with other recent nominees, thus producing the relatively high level of opposition measured in the most recent survey. With only 9% of Americans expressing no opinion about Sotomayor's fate, the lowest seen for any nominee, she now garners more opposition than any Supreme Court nominee of the past two decades, except for the unsuccessful Harriet Miers.

Still, in the more than two decades of Gallup polling on Supreme Court nominees, no nominee with at least 50% support from the American public failed to win confirmation. The 55% now supporting her is slightly lower than the 60% who favored John Roberts in 2005, but is comparable to the slight majorities who supported Samuel Alito (54%) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (53%) prior to those justices' confirmations.


Bottom Line

A majority of Americans favor the confirmation of Judge Sotomayor to replace the retiring Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court. This is accompanied by a slightly higher percentage than has been seen for other nominees who object to her winning a seat on the nation's highest court. While, perhaps, not a deterrent to her winning confirmation, it signals that the Republican criticisms of her that were aired starting before the hearings began have had some effect.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,006 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 17-18, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.


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