Public Supports Alito Nomination

by David W. Moore

Widespread opposition if Alito would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade; few think he would

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Senate confirmation of Samuel Alito as the new Supreme Court Associate Justice, replacing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, would be acceptable to most Americans, according to the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. Fifty-four percent say they would like to see the Senate vote in favor of confirmation, while 30% would not.

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 20-22

54

30

16

2006 Jan 6-8

49

30

21

2005 Dec 9-11

49

29

22

2005 Nov 7-10

50

25

25

The poll shows an increase in support from the last poll taken before the hearings, but no change in opposition.

The poll also suggests that the public would not be enthusiastic about a Democratic filibuster against Alito. Almost half, 48%, say it would not be justified, while 38% say it would.

Suppose all or most of the Democrats in the Senate oppose Alito's nomination. Do you think they would be justified -- or not justified -- in using Senate procedures, such as the filibuster, to prevent an up-or-down vote on his nomination?

Justified

Not justified

No opinion

2006 Jan 20-22

38%

48

15

Those views could change dramatically if Americans came to believe that Alito would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that ruled women had a constitutional right to an abortion in certain circumstances. The poll finds that by a 66% to 25% margin, Americans do not want the Supreme Court to overturn that ruling.

Would you like to see the Supreme Court overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision concerning abortion, or not?

Yes, overturn

No, not overturn

No opinion

2006 Jan 20-22

25%

66

9

2005 Jul 7-10 ^

28%

63

9

^ Asked of a half sample

A recent poll found 56% saying they would oppose confirmation of Alito if they were convinced he would vote to overturn that decision, while only 34% would favor confirmation.

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

An editorial in the Jan. 23 New York Times argues that "there is every reason to believe" that Alito would quickly vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. But the American people, most of whom are not paying a great deal of attention to the hearings, do not agree with the Times' editors. A plurality of Americans, 44%, believe that Alito would not overturn Roe v. Wade, while 34% believe he would and another 21% have no opinion.

Just your best guess, if Alito were confirmed to the Supreme Court, do you think he would -- or would not -- vote to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion?

Yes, would overturn

No, would not

No opinion

2006 Jan 20-22

34%

44

21

2005 Nov 1 ^

38%

38

24

^ 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.

A Jan. 6-8 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll asked respondents how closely they expected to follow the hearings on Alito's nomination, which were scheduled to begin Jan. 9. Eighteen percent said "very closely," 45% "somewhat closely," and 37% "not too" or "not at all" closely.

The more attentive to the hearings people expected to be, the more negative the view they expressed about Alito. This was not because the more attentive people were more likely to be liberal or Democrats, as predicted attention to the hearings was about equal among all partisan groups. Thus, it suggests that the more information people had, the more likely they were to agree with the Times' prediction that Alito would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Some evidence for this idea is found in the question that asked whether Alito was too liberal, too conservative, or about right. Among people who expected to follow the hearings "very" closely (and by inference, among people who had already been following the issue very closely up until that point), 45% said the nominee was too conservative, compared with 31% who said that among people who expected to follow the hearings "somewhat" closely, and 19% among people less attentive to the issue.

How Closely Expect to Follow Hearings on Alito Nomination?

Is Alito:

Very
closely

Somewhat
closely

Not too/
not at all closely

Too conservative

45%

31%

19%

Too liberal

7

8

4

About right

38

55

48

No opinion

10

6

29

Similarly, opposition to Alito is stronger the more attentive people are about the issue. More than 4 in 10 of those following the hearings very closely want the Senate to vote against confirmation, compared with 32% among those who expected to follow the hearings somewhat closely, and just 22% with the lowest level of attention.

How Closely Expect to Follow Hearings on Alito Nomination?

Want to see U.S. Senate:

Very
closely

Somewhat
closely

Not too/
not at all closely

Vote against confirmation

44%

32%

22%

Vote for confirmation

44

58

42

No opinion

13

10

37

Even among the most attentive, however, opinion was evenly divided -- 44% for and 44% against confirmation. Among the less attentive groups, the margin in favor of confirmation was either 26 percentage points (those in the "somewhat closely" group) or 20 percentage points (in the least attentive group).

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,003 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 6-8, 2006, and on telephone interviews with 1,006 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 20-22, 2006. For results based on the total samples of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error 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.

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