In recent decades Supreme Court justices mostly have come up through the judicial ranks, but history is dotted with exceptions, such as Earl Warren, a three-term California governor who became chief justice for the court's momentous civil rights rulings of the 1950s and 1960s.
IDEOLOGY – Americans appear to notice as the ideological pendulum swings on the Supreme Court. The number who say it tends to be too conservative in its decisions has declined from 31 percent in 2007, after John Roberts and Samuel Alito joined the court, to 21 percent now. Today 26 percent view the court as too liberal, up from 18 percent in 2007.
Views of the court have followed a similar pattern for years, with appointments of new justices – and sometimes landmark rulings – seemingly influencing views of its ideological position.
ABORTION – On the abortion issue, a frequent focus in discussion of court appointments, the public by 59-38 percent says the next justice should vote to uphold rather than overturn the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. That's about the same as last summer, 60 percent, and close to the average, 62 percent, in ABC/Post polls since 2005.
Among those who favor upholding the ruling, 76 percent are comfortable with Obama nominating the next justice; that declines to 48 percent – still nearly half – among those who would like to scrap Roe v. Wade, suggesting their view on abortion isn't the key driver of their view on Obama making the choice.
METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone April 22-25, 2010, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents. Results for the full sample have a 3.5-point error margin. Click here for a detailed description of sampling error. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, PA.
ABC News polls can be found at ABCNEWS.com at http://abcnews.com/pollingunit.