John Roberts won more positive than negative reviews in the weeks following his nomination as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and his support held steady. But six in 10 still want to hear his position on abortion.
Fifty-seven percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll, completed last week, said the Senate should confirm Roberts as an associate justice. The survey was conducted before his nomination as chief justice following the death of William Rehnquist.
While there were sharp partisan divisions, even Democrats favored Roberts' confirmation, albeit just by an eight-point margin, 42-34 percent. Independents favored him by a 26-point margin; Republicans, by a huge 77-point gap, 83-6 percent.
All the same, a sizable group wants more details. Six in 10 said Roberts should publicly state his position on abortion before being approved by the Senate. And 52 percent said he should answer questions about how he would have ruled on past cases, although that's down from 61 percent in July -- a decline that's occurred mainly among Republicans.
What the public's learned so far about Roberts has done more to help than to hurt him, with his reviews most positive by far among Republicans and conservatives.
Among all Americans, nearly four in 10 say the more they've heard about Roberts the more they like him, while just over a quarter say they like him less. There's great partisanship here: Democrats and liberals say by about 20-point margins that they like Roberts less as they learn more about him. But Republicans and conservatives like him more, by margins of 57 points and 34 points, respectively. Independents divide.
Not only do six in 10 Americans want to hear Roberts' position on the abortion issue, but the same number, 60 percent, say that if Roe v. Wade came before the court again they'd want Roberts to vote to uphold it.
But avoiding the hot-button question may be Roberts' safest bet, since he currently wins support from both sides of the issue. Among people who oppose Roe, 69 percent favor Roberts' confirmation. Among Roe supporters, fewer but still a majority, 53 percent, say he should be confirmed.
Similarly to views on Roe, 56 percent of Americans want the court to keep the availability of abortions the same as it is now or make them easier to get (47 percent and nine percent, respectively). The rest, 42 percent, want them more difficult to obtain. And again, Roberts wins support from most of those who want the availability of abortions to remain the same, as well as from those who want them to be more restricted.
More broadly, Americans are more likely to say Roberts' background and qualifications should be the deciding factor at the hearings, rather than his judicial philosophy and legal views. Just under half say senators should support the nomination if they believe Roberts has the right qualifications, even if they disagree with his judicial philosophy. Thirty-seven percent say such senators should oppose him.
Among those who think Roberts' qualifications should be the more important factor to senators at his hearings, 84 percent favor his confirmation. But among those who say judicial philosophy should be key, his support plummets to 36 percent.
In terms of pure politics, Americans overall divide evenly on whether the Democrats in Congress have gone too far or not far enough in opposing Roberts's nomination. But congressional Democrats might start to feel the heat from their own ranks: Just among Democrats, six in 10 say their leaders in Washington haven't done enough.
METHODOLOGY -- This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Aug. 25-28, 2005, among a random national sample of 1,006 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa.