Broad Support for Sotomayor's Supreme Court Confirmation

Fifty-nine percent say her sex plays no role in judicial decisions

ByABC News
December 15, 2008, 12:03 PM

June 28, 2009— -- Sonia Sotomayor enjoys broad public support for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, with large majorities of Americans rejecting the notion that her sex, race or ethnicity play a negative role in how she decides cases as a judge.

Sixty-two percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll say Sotomayor should be confirmed, among the highest levels of support for a high court nominee in polling data back to Robert Bork in 1987. The only numerically higher was 63 percent initial support for Clarence Thomas, which fell when his nomination turned controversial.

Click here for a PDF with charts and questionnaire.

SEX/ETHNICITY: There's been close scrutiny of a 2001 speech in which Sotomayor said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." Critics say this raises questions of judicial even-handedness; supporters call it a reflection on the benefits of diversity and the fact that life experience shapes judgment.

Results of this poll show support for Sotomayor in two ways. First, 59 percent don't think her sex plays a role in her judicial decisions. Moreover, among those who think it does inform her judgment, 70 percent see that as a good thing. The total – those who see no influence, or a positive one – is 82 percent. (It's virtually identical among women and men.)

The results on ethnicity are somewhat less lopsided; nonetheless 52 percent believe Sotomayor's racial or ethnic background doesn't play a role in her decisions, and of those who think it does, 42 percent call that a good thing. On this, a net total of 68 percent see no influence or a positive one (66 percent of whites, as well as 77 percent of non-whites).

IDEOLOGY and ABORTION: Sotomayor also benefits from a mainstream image. Fifty-five percent say she's "about right" ideologically, about as many as said so about John Roberts and more than Samuel Alito's 44 percent in 2005. Just over a quarter call her too liberal, about as many as called both Roberts and Alito too conservative.