Poll: Public Gives President Obama Latitude in Supreme Court Nomination

Two-thirds say they're comfortable having Obama make the choice.

ByABC News
April 29, 2010, 2:43 PM

April 30, 2010 -- Americans give President Obama latitude in selecting the next Supreme Court nominee, with two-thirds saying they're comfortable having him make the choice and broad majorities rejecting most personal attributes as important factors in a justice – save one, experience on the bench.

Seventy percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll say it'd be a net positive in their view if Obama's nominee to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens has experience as a judge. But for many even that's not a requirement – barely over half, 52 percent, call it a strong factor.

Click here for a PDF with charts and questionnaire.

Other personal attributes, including items such as the nominee's race, sex, religion and sexual orientation, are not issues for sizable majorities, anywhere from 71 to 83 percent.

There's been a 10-point drop in the number of Americans who see the court as "too conservative" and an 8-point rise in those who call it "too liberal" since Obama's first nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, took her seat on the bench in August. Still a plurality, 46 percent, say it's generally balanced in its decisions, near the average in ABC/Post polls since 1986.

Regardless, 65 percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll say they're comfortable with Obama nominating the next justice, which the president says he'll do by the end of May. That comfort level – substantially higher than Obama's approval ratings overall and on specific issues – seems to reflect a longstanding public view of such nominations as chiefly a presidential prerogative. In polls since 1987 every nominee save two has achieved majority support; those were the unsuccessful Robert Bork and Harriet Miers.

Comfort with Obama making the selection takes in three in four moderates and two-thirds of independents, dropping sharply to around one in three conservatives, Republicans and evangelical white Protestants. Perhaps surprisingly, among those who'd like to see Roe v. Wade overturned – just fewer than four in 10 adults – nearly half nonetheless are comfortable with Obama making the pick.