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. rita

    The only hope for the last group of Americans seeking full participation in the narrative of the United States of America and in life is for a liberal judge to be appointed to the court in order to magnify inherent civil and human rights for our fully American gay population.

    April 21, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  2. Dale

    I didn't know people came with labels.

    April 21, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  3. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    The wonderfully demented citizens of the state of West Carolina (aka AZ) will tell you that since the President is NOT a citizen it really doesn't matter who he picks for the SC.

    April 21, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    It's pretty sad that the "news" media thinks it's a terrific idea to use polls to politicize what should be a VERY non-politicized process. Seriously. Holding hearings on a nominee for the SCOTUS is the one thing that Congress does, above all others, that should receive a wide berth from the media. It's bad enough the 24 hour news cycle encourages politicians to politicize everything from their latest bowel movement to the POTUS' lunch diet, but the SCOTUS is supposed to be insulated from that garbage. Public opinion is not supposed to matter to them and it's not supposed, because it's not supposed to determine the nature and meaning of our laws. Ergo, public opionion should NOT inform or determine the POTUS' decision as to whom he (or she) nominates and it should NOT inform or determine Congress' behavior towards that nominee in determining his/her credentials, understanding of the law and fitness to serve. Instead, we'll have to listen to political grandstanding hypotheticals with no correct answer, akin to "have you stopped beating your wife?"...and polls like this ENCOURAGE IT.

    There's a reason Jefferson hated newspapers. You just read one.

    April 21, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  5. Manhandler

    So CNN has a poll about who Obama should pick and finds that the majority want him to pick a moderate but expect him to pick a liberal. THEN....CNN has another poll in their little "New in the ticker" section that says that the majority think that Obama will make the right choice.....................................................................................................................so which is it CNN with all your wonderful stupid polls. If the majority expect him to pick a liberal while they want a moderate...how can the majority also think he's gonna make the right choice?

    April 21, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  6. Republicans are a joke!

    To people like "Alban" below...all of those tax increases you speak about will have to come back because of all the frekkin damage republicans do!!!! it's a continued cycle...dems clean it up, republicans go in and destroy it! then when the next dem goes into office, they clean it up again and again, repubs go back in and screw it up...the american people are an interesting bunch of people. As for Obama doing everything the opposite of what the american people want, you know darn well that's BS on YOUR part! he's done everything so far he said he'd do, the same reasons i've voted for him! and the things he hasn't done yet, they're on this huge plate of problems he needs to fix..it takes time..But then again, you repubs and impatient americans will say he's not doing enough...what a joke!

    April 21, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  7. YeYo

    Go Bama!!! Thank you for health care reform and please put out a real Cap and Trade bill.... and now for God's sake get a true blooded liberal in there. After the corporate campaign finance decision it's become clear that conservative is not the way for America!!! One year ago everybody was staring into the abyss... the unemployment was there before him and it will continue for a while but, at least my once destroyed 401k is looking stronger and so am I... GO BAMA!!!! ; )

    Girls!... stop hating... and just admit we are way better off today relative to where we were one year ago! ; ) That's right... Go Bama!!!

    April 21, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  8. charlotte

    In other words, 64 percent do NOT want a conservative. Hopefully we won't need to worry about it, Obama himself is moderate and is therefore likely to have some good, left-leaning moderate candidates to offer.

    April 21, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  9. Rick CT

    We need more libs. They were unanimous in thinking the constitution protects our rights to see violence against dogs. True, 4 of the 5 conservatives also upheld that right. Only alito dissented. We need more Alito's, whom Obama tried to filibuster. I guess Obama must believe opposing videos of dog violence goes against core American values (a phrase he used as a Senator to oppose Alito).

    April 21, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  10. Clay

    Your poll results are obviously in error. The real question is why you would both print these false results and write an accompanying story to back them up. I wonder how much the RNC paid the author for this piece of yellow journalism. I smell a rat.

    April 21, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  11. Robman

    WHY NOT! The activist court that gave W. the election of 2000, that gave corporations free rein in spending for candidates, the court that contiues to push forward their right wing agenda for the richest 1%, can't do any worse with a liberal point of view.
    Can you say Up is really Down? That is what the republican'ts want you to believe.
    Not all people in this non-thinking democracy are stupid.

    April 21, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  12. Papasan in Az

    Everyone that voted for Obama will have to face the fact that he is a \"One Term\" President. If History tells us anything, the President will need to pull a Big Rabbit out of his hat to get a second term. Possibly it would be a good idea for him to start with the campaign promises that he stumped on.

    1] Jobs

    2] Mortgage Reform / Help

    3] End The Wars

    4] Real Immigration & Border Laws

    5] Main Street America as a Priority

    The above list would be a good start for the President to consider if he is to remain in the White House.

    I can't say I like being taken for a fool, and I'm sure the rest of the people that Voted for him do either...

    Good luck America, and don't forget to write!

    Papasan in AZ

    April 21, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  13. Manhandler

    So in one poll in the ticker, the majority expects Obama to pick a liberal...but they want him to pick a moderate.

    In another poll in the ticker, the majority expects Obama to make the right choice.

    So which is the accurate poll? How can the majority expect him to pick something other than what they want while at the same time expect him to make the right choice? So much for your polls.

    April 21, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  14. JJP

    Mr. President you won the election, who cares what the GOP want... Please pick the best person for the job....President Bush did not care what the Dems wanted.....Mr. President, again "YOU WON THE ELECTION."

    April 21, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  15. Robert

    The most important poll was the one held on Election Day 2008, when American voters like me decided we wanted Barack Obama to be president - and to choose people to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court for the next 4 years (hopefully 8 years!!). The more liberal the better!

    America chose a Democrat for president, and rejected a Republican. Deal with it.

    April 21, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  16. Tracy

    Wow, so much hate for a president that is actually doing something for the people. He's a multimillionaire, but he got people healthcare that couldn't get it before. If you hate that, please just promise me that you will never use it if you lose your job or have a pre-existing condition. People hate big government until their town gets wiped out by a natural disaster, there's and H1N1 outbreak, etc., then they scream for the government to intervene. Just as people complained about Obama cutting NASA. Why weren't you just as vocal during the debate for the unfunded wars that added trillions to the debt and didn't make us any safer as a nation during the Bush years (remember the hijackers came from Saudi Arabia?). You can't have it both ways, people! The hypocrisy of it all!

    April 21, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  17. TimTh

    Hello, George W. Bush appointed (moderately) conservative judges. Obama will appoint a (moderately) liberal judge. Checks and balances, isn't it?

    April 21, 2010 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  18. lila

    Well, seeing how Obama still is at a 50% approval rate even after taking on some of the some divisive issues that all Americans leaders before him failed at accomplishing before him.. I would suggest he go with his virtue of temperance and pick a SCJ that has a healthy balance between keen intellect and empathy to human struggle.

    April 21, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  19. D. Tree

    Obama himself is a moderate Democrat, so he will probably pick someone who is moderate as well. Unfortunately for our country, the retiring justice Stevens has been defined as a "liberal," even though he considers himself a Republican and was nominated by a Republican president! Just goes to show how far to the Right the Supreme Court has drifted.

    April 21, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  20. mgaret03

    why am I the only one that seems to remember that (while Obama probably will choose a liberal leaning judge) the court is still holds a conservative majority and that a liberal judge nominination does not tilt the court or balance it. The court will still hold a conservative majority.

    April 21, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "This administration could care less what the majority of Americans want."

    On this issue, so should the SCOTUS and the Congress. Our laws, particularly our Constitution and the rights protected thereby, DO NOT CHANGE BASED ON THE PUBLIC'S LATEST FANCY. Grow up. "How would you rule if someone brough a case trying to overturn Roe v. Wade?" and "is socialism constitutional?" (and yes, setting aside that nothign Obama or the DEms have done is socialism, it would still be constitutional, so suck it up conservative morons) are NOT legitimate questions of a nominee. It is grandstanding nonsense from politicians trying to score points with their base. Qualifications, credential, accuracy of previous rulings and the understanding of our EXISTING laws...those are reasonable poitns of consideration...NOT whether they would be glad to help a particualr side overturn existing law or create new law that skews in one direction.

    April 21, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  22. Ithaca NY

    People don't even know what liberal means, what a justice is supposed to do, or even understand the law and our form of government at all.

    Polls say most people think everyone else is dumber than they are.

    April 21, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  23. NOT crazy in TX.

    This poll is further evidence of the ignorance of those being polled. The scale of justice is tilted so far to the right, it's touching the ground. But let's not try to balance it out a wee bit!

    April 21, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  24. TimTh

    @ Alban: against the will of the American people? Heck, the majority of American people voted for him. He's doing his job. And no, Pres. Obama does not have to ask for a popular vote everytime he is doing his job. That's what elections are for, every four years.

    April 21, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  25. Michael Rothstein

    Alban, you are funny. You say that Obama administration has increased government expansion. I suppose the patriot act did not? Warrantless wiretaps anyone? Hmm? And you speak of fiscal responsibility? Have you conveniently forgot how much money was pissed away during the Bush Administration. It amazes me how you republicans are so willing to throw dollars at every meaningless dirty war a politician decides to have your kids fight in, yet you are so opposed to spend on making sure we have a good education system, or health care. That money that was spent on these criminal wars could have paid for health care, fixed a lot of infrastruture issues, and more. I love when the religious people oppose health care but support the wars the most. That is just hilarious to me on so many levels.

    Republicans also opposed medicare and social security when those issues were first brought to the table. Republicans also called that socialism. But republicans also like getting social security and medicare when they need it dont they.

    The hypocrisy runs deep.

    Mike

    April 21, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
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