Abortion

Alito Nomination: Public in Favor as Hearings Begin

Majority thinks his views in mainstream

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted prior to the start of Senate confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, shows that Americans are more likely to favor than oppose his confirmation. More than 6 in 10 Americans say they plan to follow Alito's hearings closely. Despite some concerns about his positions on matters such as abortion, affirmative action, and civil liberties, prior to the hearings a slight majority thinks his views on important issues are in the mainstream, and fewer than one in three say he would be "too conservative" as a Supreme Court justice. The poll finds that Alito's position on Roe v. Wade could be a critical element of the hearings -- if Americans become convinced that Alito would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, a majority of Americans say they would oppose his nomination.

Sixty-three percent say they plan to follow Alito's confirmation hearings closely, including 18% who say "very closely," according to the Jan. 6-8 poll, conducted the weekend prior to the start of the hearings. Those figures are similar to what Gallup found prior to the beginning of John Roberts' confirmation hearings, when 59% said they would follow those hearings closely with 18% saying "very closely."

Support for Alito Nomination

The poll finds 49% of Americans want the senate to vote in favor of Alito serving on the Supreme Court, while 30% do not, and 21% do not have an opinion on the matter. Opinion on Alito's confirmation has changed little since he was nominated in early November.

Alito's current numbers compare favorably to those found for Harriet Miers -- whose nomination was withdrawn by President George W. Bush at her request. Shortly before her confirmation hearings were to begin, the public was divided over whether the Senate should confirm her, with 42% in favor and 43% opposed.

Americans were more likely to favor John Roberts' confirmation immediately prior to his hearings than currently favor Alito's -- 58% favored Roberts' confirmation in early September. However, Roberts' support had been in the low 50s in July and August.

Republicans strongly favor Alito's confirmation -- 73% of those surveyed are in favor and just 11% are opposed. Independents are also more likely to favor (41%) than oppose (36%) the nomination. Democrats are more likely to oppose (46%) than favor (34%) it, though their opposition is not overwhelming.

Support for Alito's confirmation is similar to what it was for Roberts' confirmation among Republicans and Democrats, although independents were more likely to support Roberts. Miers' support was significantly lower among all three groups, but especially among Democrats.

Public Support for Recent Supreme Court Nominees, by Party Affiliation

Alito (Jan. 6-8)

Roberts (Sep. 8-11)

Miers (Oct. 21-23)

% Favor

% Oppose

% Favor

% Oppose

% Favor

% Oppose

Overall

49

30

58

27

42

43

Republican

73

11

79

7

66

22

Independent

41

36

54

29

37

43

Democrat

34

46

41

46

23

62

The Abortion Issue

The abortion issue is likely to be a key focus of the hearings. Those who describe themselves as "pro-life" on the abortion issue currently favor Alito's confirmation, 64% to 17%. Those who describe themselves as "pro-choice" are divided, with slightly more opposed (41%) than in favor (38%).

The poll shows that much of Alito's public support could vanish if people become convinced that he would vote to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion. Just 34% say they would want the Senate to confirm Alito if they thought he would overturn Roe, while 56% say they would not want the Senate to confirm him in that case.

Opposition to Alito among those who are pro-choice would increase sharply in this scenario, from the current 41% to 38% margin as opposed to a 78% to 16% margin if there were strong indications he would attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade. And, perhaps contrary to expectations, his support would drop among those who consider themselves pro-life, from the current 64% to 17% margin in favor to a smaller 55% to 30% margin.

Americans Do Not See Alito as an Extremist

There have been some concerns about how Alito might rule on cases like abortion based on his past legal writings and judicial opinions, including some that expressed an opposition to the Roe v. Wade decision that effectively legalized abortion in the United States. For the most part, however, the American public does not share concerns that Alito is out of step with the public on the issues.

A majority, 52%, believes Alito's "views on important issues are in the mainstream," while just 30% believe they are "too extreme." Opinions on this matter have not changed even as more information about Alito's past writings and judicial decisions have been made public. In a Nov. 1 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted immediately after Bush nominated him, 51% thought Alito's views were mainstream and 26% thought too extreme.

Similarly, fewer than one in three currently believe Alito would be "too conservative" as a Supreme Court Justice, while 6% think he would be "too liberal" and the plurality, 49%, say he would be "about right."

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,003 adults, aged 18 years and older, conducted Jan. 6-8, 2006. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. 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.

For results based on the 498 national adults in the Form A half-sample and 505 national adults in the Form B half-sample, the maximum margins of sampling error are ±5 percentage points.

22. As you may know, Samuel Alito is the federal judge nominated to serve on the Supreme Court. Would you like to see the Senate vote in favor of Alito serving on the Supreme Court, or not?

Yes, vote in favor

No, not

No opinion

%

%

%

2006 Jan 6-8

49

30

21

2005 Dec 9-11

49

29

22

2005 Nov 7-10

50

25

25

Trends for Comparison

Harriet Miers: As you may know, Harriet Miers is the person nominated to serve on the Supreme Court. Would you like to see the Senate vote in favor of Miers serving on the Supreme Court, or not?

Yes, vote in favor

No, not

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Oct 21-23

42

43

15

2005 Oct 13-16^

44

36

20

^ Asked of a half sample.

John Roberts: As you may know, John Roberts is a federal judge who has been nominated to serve on the Supreme Court. Would you like to see the Senate vote in favor of Roberts serving on the Supreme Court, or not?

Yes, vote in favor

No, would not

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Sep 16-18 ^

60

26

14

2005 Sep 8-11 ^

58

27

15

2005 Aug 28-30

52

26

22

2005 Aug 5-7 †

51

28

21

2005 Jul 22-24 †

59

22

19

^ WORDING: As you may know, John Roberts is a federal judge who has been nominated to serve as chief justice on the Supreme Court. Would you like to see the Senate vote in favor of Roberts serving as chief justice on the Supreme Court, or not?

† WORDING: As you may know, John Roberts is the person nominated to serve on the Supreme Court. Would you like to see the Senate vote in favor of Roberts serving on the Supreme Court, or not?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a federal judge who has been nominated by President Clinton to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Would you like to see the Senate vote in favor of Ginsburg serving on the Supreme Court, or not?

Yes, vote in favor

No, would not

No opinion

1993 Jun 18-21

53%

14

33

Clarence Thomas: Clarence Thomas is the federal judge nominated to serve on the Supreme Court. Would you like to see the Senate vote in favor of Clarence Thomas serving on the Supreme Court, or not?

Yes, vote in favor

No, would not

No opinion

1991 Jul 11-14

52%

17

31

Robert Bork: Robert Bork is a federal judge who has been nominated by President Reagan to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Would you like to see the Senate vote in favor of Bork serving on the U.S. Supreme Court, or not?

Yes, vote in favor

No, would not

No opinion

%

%

%

1987 Sep 1-13 ^

38

35

26

1987 Aug 24-Sep 2

31

25

44

^ Gallup for Times Mirror

Q.23-24 SPLIT SAMPLED

23. From what you know about Samuel Alito, as a Supreme Court Justice, do you think he would be too liberal, too conservative, or just about right?

BASED ON 498 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

Too
liberal

Too
conservative

About
right

No
opinion

2006 Jan 6-8

6%

29

49

15

Trends for Comparison:

John Roberts: From what you know about John Roberts, as a Supreme Court Justice, do you think he would be too liberal, too conservative, or just about right?

Too
liberal

Too
conservative

About
right

No
opinion

2005 Aug 28-30

8%

24

48

20

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: From what you know about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as a Supreme Court Justice do you think she would be too liberal, too conservative, or just about right?

Too
liberal

Too
conservative

About
right

No
opinion

1993 Jun 18-21

14%

4

47

35

Clarence Thomas: From what you know about Clarence Thomas, as a Supreme Court Justice do you think he would be too liberal, too conservative, or just about right?

Too
liberal

Too
conservative

About
right

No
opinion

1991 Jul 11-14

7%

20

46

27

24. Based on what you have heard or read about him, do you think Alito's views on important issues are in the mainstream or do you think they are too extreme?

BASED ON 505 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

Mainstream

Too extreme

No opinion

%

%

%

2006 Jan 6-8 ^

52

30

19

2005 Nov 1 †

51

26

23

^ Asked of a half sample

† Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.

25. How closely do you plan to follow the Senate confirmation hearings for Samuel Alito, which are scheduled to begin on Monday -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all?

Very
closely

Somewhat
closely

Not too
closely

Not
at all

No
opinion

2006 Jan 6-8

18%

45

23

14

1

Trends for Comparison

John Roberts: How closely do you plan to follow the Senate confirmation hearings for John Roberts, which are scheduled to begin in September -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all closely?

Very
closely

Somewhat
closely

Not too
closely

Not
at all

No
opinion

2005 Aug 28-30

18%

41

22

18

1

26. Suppose that after his confirmation hearings you were convinced Samuel Alito would vote to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion. If that were the case, would you like to see the senate vote in favor of Alito serving on the Supreme Court, or not?

Yes, vote in favor

No, not

No opinion

2006 Jan 6-8

34%

56

11

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/20788/Alito-Nomination-Public-Favor-Hearings-Begin.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030