Poll: Majority of Americans Want the Senate to Confirm Alito

Six in 10 Americans plan to follow the Senate confirmation hearings that start today for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, and his supporters continue to outnumber his opponents by about a 2-1 margin. But Alito's support falls sharply among people who think he'll overturn the court's landmark Roe vs. Wade abortion decision.

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.

Tuning In

Overall, 53 percent of Americans support Alito's confirmation while 27 percent oppose it, with 20 percent undecided. Views haven't changed substantially since President Bush nominated Alito in late October. In terms of public sentiment, he's in about the same position as John Roberts was at the opening of his hearings to become chief justice.

Sixty percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll say they plan to follow the Senate proceedings at least somewhat closely, although far fewer, just under one in five, say they'll be following them "very closely."

Abortion

Alito's views on abortion may play a central role in the hearings. Without a clear indication of how he'll rule on abortion cases, expectations are fractured. Thirty-eight percent think he'll leave the current abortion law as it is, but a total of 44 percent think he'll either vote for greater restrictions on abortion (26 percent) or vote to overturn Roe (18 percent).

People who think Alito will overturn Roe oppose his confirmation, by 54 percent to 33 percent. But he wins broad support both from those who think he'll leave current abortion law as it is, and those who think he will keep abortion legal, but with greater restrictions.

Alito's Nomination
  Alito Will Support Alito Will Oppose
Keep abortion law as is: 68% 21%
Impose greater restrictions: 64% 26%
Overturn Roe entirely: 33% 54%

Those views are in line with previous polling on abortion and the court. In earlier ABC/Post polls, six in 10 or more said the court should retain Roe. At the same time, about as many expressed support for imposing greater restrictions on abortion (42 percent) or for keeping current law as is (45 percent).

Many seem to be projecting their own attitudes onto Alito: Fifty-eight percent say the way they'll expect him to vote on Roe is the way they'll want him to vote. But again distaste for overturning Roe comes through: Among people who think Alito will vote to overturn Roe, nearly six in 10 say that's not what they'll want.

Groups

Support for Alito varies widely by partisanship: Seventy-six percent of Republicans back him, compared with 47 percent of independents and 40 percent of Democrats. Still, though, Democrats divide on the nomination, rather than mainly opposing it.

There's also a modest gender gap: Men and women alike are more likely to support than oppose Alito's confirmation, but he's supported by 58 percent of men, compared with 49 percent of women. Women are more apt to be Democrats, and also to be undecided.

Beyond those who think he'll overturn Roe, opposition to Alito is highest -- though well short of a majority -- among liberals (44 percent oppose his nomination), people with postgraduate educations (39 percent) and young adults (38 percent of those under age 30).

Methodology

This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 5-8, 2006, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Fieldwork by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

Click here for PDF version with full questionnaire and results.

Click here for more ABC News polls in our Poll Vault.

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