April 21st, 2010
12:38 PM ET
10 years ago

CNN Poll: Will Obama name a liberal to Supreme Court?

A majority of Americans expect President Obama to appoint a liberal to the Supreme Court.

A majority of Americans expect President Obama to appoint a liberal to the Supreme Court.

Washington (CNN) - A majority of Americans expect President Obama to appoint a liberal to the Supreme Court, but only one in four want that to happen, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday indicates that 61 percent of the public expect the president to nominate a liberal to replace John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, 21 percent said the president will name a moderate and 16 percent predicted that Obama will nominate a conservative.

Full results (pdf)

But only a quarter of those questioned said the president should nominate a liberal, with 37 percent saying they want Obama to name a moderate and 36 percent pulling for a conservative candidate.

The poll's release comes one day before the president hosts Senate Democratic and Republican leaders at the White House to discuss the vacancy on the high court. Among the participants in the meeting will be the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will most likely hold confirmation hearings this summer.

Stevens, who turns 90 Tuesday, announced earlier this month that he would retire from the high court at the end of this session. Stevens is considered the leader of the liberal block of the court.

"If Obama appoints a liberal, that is likely to be seen as a way to shore up support in his own party," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But only 46 percent of Democrats want him to choose a liberal; 34 percent of Democrats want a moderate nominee and one in five want a conservative."

Not surprisingly, more than six in ten Republicans questioned in the survey want a conservative nominee, with three in ten saying they want the president to nominate at moderate and only 9 percent calling for Obama to choose a liberal.

One issue that is certain to come up at confirmation hearings is abortion. The survey indicates that 21 percent now say abortion should be legal in all circumstances.

"That's the lowest that number has been since 1985," Holland said.

Another 13 percent said abortion should be legal in most circumstances, and 42 percent said that should be the case in only a few circumstances. Just over one in five indicate abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted April 9-11, with 1,008 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report


Filed under: CNN poll • President Obama • Supreme Court
soundoff (327 Responses)
  1. I Love America

    It's not what the stupid little people want, so I'm sure he'll do it.

    April 21, 2010 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  2. Harry in Texas

    Please appoint a liberal. As we have seen, the conservative crowd on the court will always side with big business, to the detriment of the ordinary populace.

    Balance is always preferable to any one camp having a monopoly on the court.

    April 21, 2010 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  3. Skip

    I don't think the public even agrees what "liberal" means. Stevens, considered to be on the "liberal" side of the SC, was appointed by a Republican President. "Liberal" Souter, who was replaced by Sotomayor, was appointed by a Republican President. The moderate, swing vote on the SC, Kennedy, was appointed by a Republican President. I can guarantee that you will never see the GOP support candidates like Stevens, Souter or Kennedy again, especially if they are nominated by a Democratic President.

    April 21, 2010 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  4. Mark

    Obama is at odds with what the voters want on just about every single issue. I suspect he will be defeated in his reelection bid by a HUGE margin,

    OBAMA = FAILURE

    April 21, 2010 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  5. Ken in NC

    I think that since his decision is not going to make people happy, he should choose the candidate he is most comfortable. You have those that want conservative, moderate and liberal and no one person is going to satisfy all three groups. I think the court should have some balance but since I did not win the election the decision is not mine. Did I say that? OK well to all those Presidential "WANNABES", we didn't win so we don't get to make our pick. One of us needs to win in 2012 to be in the position to make a Supreme Court pick if someone on the court retires, quits or dies.. Otherwise all our discussion about who should be picked is moot.

    April 21, 2010 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  6. dora

    Up until the previous administration, it was a matter of practice, if not outright policy for the President to maintain a balance in the Supreme Court. That is why someone like President Ford appointed a justice like Justice Stevens. Not since FDR sought to add an additional 3 justices has there been such an imbalance in the Court. But as long as all the television spews is infotainment, we will keep sinking into this corporate run system of government.

    April 21, 2010 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  7. go on with your bad self

    When the Bush boys were in office, they didn't care what the rest of the country thought about all of dim wit ideas, they just pushed them thru, and now that we have a president with a brain, I hope he gets a little Bushy in him and just starts to push thru the people we need in postions such as this one.

    Too bad if the Republicanknuckle-heads don't like it. There is no talking to those people anyway, no matter what accomplishments this presdient makes they are going to run him into the ground anyway right?
    Besides, the Republicans are like children, and it will be for their own good in end, they just don't know that, and probaly NEVER will.

    April 21, 2010 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  8. BillE

    Why not a lib? The party of NO would pick a conservative and wouldn't think twice about it.

    April 21, 2010 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  9. cm

    I think it's his choice, you cannot please all these more-ron's in this country. SHUT UP ALREADY!

    April 21, 2010 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  10. mike

    Stop with the daily polls already. Anyone who governs by the polls should be fired. I want independant leadership, not someone living by polls.

    Who are these people polled anyway.....I don't know anyone who has ever been a part of these, how do we know these "people" polled are really represtative of the country.

    April 21, 2010 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  11. Charlie in Maine

    Dear Mr. President,

    If you appoint suggest a liberal the GOP will block you if you suggest a moderate the GOP will say the choice is liberal and block you. That 30% that think you should select a conservative aer never going to support you no matter what. Find the best jurists, then pick one. I trust your judgemnt.

    April 21, 2010 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  12. Matt Boston

    Name a liberal? Perhaps. But my money is on him naming a Socialist

    April 21, 2010 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  13. Marge

    Oh dear oh me...choke me.....the POLL says the want a conservative. Who took it...the republican members of congress. After the mess the republican radical activist judges have made of the decilsions so far. They are they only ones in this country who would want a conservative. I hope Robets has to resign because of his epilipsey and we get to put a REAL JUSTICE IN.

    Typical republican hysteria, bush picks two of the most radical right wing far out judges to screw up the court but Obama has to pick who the POS republicans want...but then look at the source CNN the bottom of the barrel, because they are trying their hardest to out fox the fox station, who the investigation proved they falsify their ratings.

    April 21, 2010 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  14. CONNIE

    Obama doesn't care what the people of America wants remember they voted him in as president so thereforth we spoke and he will do want he wants. But he did get elected on his lies.

    April 21, 2010 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  15. proud mother and sister of soldiers

    Obama will appoint whoever fits his agenda. He has continually ignored the voice of the public cause in his words "he knows what is better for this country". President or dictator?????

    April 21, 2010 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  16. FatSean

    "Liberal" has been turned into a dirty word by right-wing pundits out to make a buck.

    Civil rights, voting for women, voting for minorities...all of these Liberal concepts once denounced as destructive to society by American conservatives.

    Like Tea Party people who denounce the government yet demand their Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, I suspect many of these people have a bit of confusion on this topic.

    April 21, 2010 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  17. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    OK everyone, here is your primer on Justices.

    If a Liberal judge interprets the Constitution to say something concerning a case or law he is an Activist.

    If a Conservative judge interprets the Constitution to say something concerning a case or a law he is a Constructionist.

    Liberal Judges are expected to respect Stare Decisis, especially concerning decisions Conservatives like. Conservative Judges are expected to ignore Stare Decisis especially concerning decisions Conservatives do not like.

    April 21, 2010 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  18. Betty

    I hope we haven't reached the point where a poll of the American people would decide a Supreme Court Justice.

    April 21, 2010 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  19. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    What a dumb question. He may end up putting Hugo Chavez or one of the Castro brothers, knowing his political bent and desire to change the constituition, and of course the libertards would call anyone who would be against such a move unpatriotic, part of a right wing mob, militia member and racist. The workings of the libertard mind are unfathomable.

    April 21, 2010 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  20. Bob

    So what. He's president to lead; not win a popularity contest. The IQ's of all tea partiers wouldn't add up to Obama's.

    April 21, 2010 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  21. Chris D.

    I was comfortable w/ the last Supreme court pick. I trust the President will have another solid choice for the courts.

    April 21, 2010 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  22. JK

    All 3,000% of the people agree that he should visit all 57 States and pick a nominee from Kenya and one from Indonesia and have them speak Austrian.

    April 21, 2010 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  23. JPX

    I hope he appoints the most liberal person possible. After all the horrible conservatives that the 2 Bush's appointed why would Obama appoint anyone else but a liberal? Conservatives are on the wrong side of every issue, the more liberals we get in there the better off we'll all be.

    April 21, 2010 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  24. Brian

    Here's an idea: how about nominate the person most deserving of the position based on qualifications? Besides, Stevens was a long time moderate who apppeared to be liberal only because right wing moderates moved further to the right.

    April 21, 2010 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  25. steve

    Somebody must stand up to right justices treating corporations like individuals. Where in the constitution does it mention anything other than citizen, president, court, congress, and constitution? Is a corporation a citizen? No in my book!

    April 21, 2010 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
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