Poll: Tempered Support for Alito

Americans offer modest support for the latest U.S. Supreme Court nominee: Forty-nine percent say the U.S. Senate should confirm Samuel Alito, far more than oppose him, but lower than the initial support for newly installed Chief Justice John Roberts.

Alito may be feeling a spillover effect from George W. Bush's popularity problems and the derailed nomination of Harriet Miers. Still, just 29 percent oppose Alito's nomination, with 22 percent waiting to hear more.

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

In another sign of his comparatively soft start, 44 percent of Americans see Alito as "about right" ideologically, 14 points fewer than said the same of Roberts shortly after his initial nomination as an associate justice. More instead are withholding judgment on Alito.

  Confirm Reject No opin.
Alito   49%   29%   22%
Roberts (7/05)   59   23   17


Some critics have seized on Alito's opinion as a federal judge that states may require women seeking an abortion to notify their husbands. But the spousal notification ruling is a wash: Twenty-seven percent of Americans say it makes them more likely to support Alito; 26 percent more likely to oppose him. A plurality, 46 percent, say it makes no difference in their view of his nomination.

While previous polling has found broad support for spousal notification laws, majorities continue to support legal abortion overall. Sixty-four percent -- including roughly equal numbers of men and women -- say they'd want Alito, if confirmed, to vote to uphold Roe v. Wade if it came before the court again. (About as many said they'd like to see Roberts uphold Roe.)

The debate, therefore, may hinge on whether Alito is seen just as supportive of some restrictions on abortion, or as inclined to reverse Roe entirely.


Women are nine points more likely than men to respond unfavorably to the spousal notification opinion; 30 percent of women say it makes them more likely to oppose Alito, compared with 21 percent of men. And fewer women than men currently favor Alito's confirmation, 45 percent compared with 53 percent of men.

But spousal notification likely isn't a big cause, since there was a very similar gender gap on Roberts (men were nine points more apt to support him). Pure partisanship is involved: Women are more apt than men to be Democrats, the political group in which Alito (like Roberts before him) is weakest.

  Men Women
Confirm Alito   53%   45%
Reject Alito   26   32
Confirm Roberts   64   55
Reject Roberts   21   25


Support for Alito is also more tepid than Roberts' across party lines. Most independents supported Roberts, but just under half currently favor Alito. Democrats were divided on Roberts, but more oppose than support Alito. And while Republican support for Alito is high (73 percent), it's lower than it was for Roberts shortly after his initial nomination in July (84 percent).

  Alito Roberts
   Confirm   33%   41%
   Not Confirm   43   40
   Confirm   73   84
   Not Confirm   11   7
   Confirm   48   58
   Not Confirm   30   21


This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 30-Nov. 2, 2005, among a random national sample of 641 adults. The results have a four-point error margin. Fieldwork by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

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