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. Democracy requires compromise

    Why is this question even being asked? Was there a similar poll questioning whether George Bush should nominate a conservative to the court? The very question seems to have a conservative bias.

    April 21, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  2. Blkman

    CRAZY.............................how about he name a "qualified person" to the do job think that might work. American's have soooooooooo few issues they need to be concerned about a S.C. nominee. STUPID.

    April 21, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  3. Ron , West Coast

    George Bush nominated two conservatives to the supreme court , so why should`nt Barack Obama nominate whomever he wants ?..... Elections have consequences , to the winner goes the spoils . Liberal is derived from the word liberate , ... meaning " freedom ", and I can`t see anything wrong with being free to choose a liberal to the supreme court .

    April 21, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  4. Midwest Mom

    Funny, when Republican Gerald Ford appointed John Paul Stevens in 1975 he was considered a moderate conservative. Today he is considered extemely liberal. The country has shifted so far right that those once considered "radical conservatives" are now the new moderates. I have to commend the right for being so successful in orchestrating the shift. Imagine a world where the left starts proclaiming that Justice Sotomayor and Nancy Pelosi are way too conservative. On second though, let's do that, and maybe the middle will come back to the middle.

    April 21, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  5. Andi

    Does it matter? The GOP will be against it, no matter what. And quit with the 'what a majority of Americans want', poster drad. You do not speak for the 'majority' who elected President Obama to make these decisions on our behalf.

    The 'American People' do not get to vote on every decision the President makes, certainly not on SC Justices. Have you ever voted on one? No. Because they are appointed by the President.

    April 21, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  6. Judge Judy

    Yeah we need more conservative strict constructionists like Roberts and Alito who created a right of Corporate free speech out of thin air that allows unlimited political influence by corporations that even real people don't have. Forget that the Framers of our Constitution expressed concern about such a thing. And we need more limitation on personal choice and freedom but more support business' right to make money at the expense of the public and individuals don't we? And we need a court that interferes with the election process by denying a review of the votes of thousands of people after the state court allowed it.

    Liberal? This court is liberally denying personal freedom and rights in favor of guns and profits.

    April 21, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  7. SC Ex-Pub

    I think the Re-pubs will support just as liberal as Roberts is conservative..."NO"....Just kidding!

    It doesn't matter who he appoints...Trot out the "McConnel-The-Turtle-Man" soundbites..."too liberal"..."political activist"... "not main stream"...etc.

    April 21, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  8. Dyan, Minnesota

    Matt Boston said "Name a liberal? Perhaps. But my money is on him naming a Socialist"

    I've given it great thought over the months and I've decided that if you want to label progressive and liberal values as "socialist"....... I'm okay with that. I've researched exactly what it means to be part of the Democratic Socialist party in the US, and I'm perfectly okay with the label.

    So if you label Obama's pick to the Court as a Democratic Socialist on the Court, go for it. Many of us have stopped being afraid of your labels and have decided to wear them proudly.

    April 21, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  9. Oregon calling

    Please do. Like mind for like mind. No to a conservative.

    Peace 🙂

    April 21, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  10. Glennis

    Is the Pope Catholic? Does a bear....well, you know.

    April 21, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  11. Terry from West Texas

    It is ridiculous to imagine that we can find qualified Supreme Court justices who are somehow "neutral." That is, they are qualified but they have no personal beliefs somehow. First of all, the Constitution is not that clear of a document.

    What did the founding fathers intend by the Second Amendment? Clearly and obviously, they intended for members of state militias to be permitted to own muzzle loading flintlocks, a bayonet, and a sword. They did not think about assault rifles, grenade launchers, poison gas, shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles, etc. If I was on the Supreme Court, I would vote for the right of Americans who are members of the state militia to carry flintlocks.

    Conservative judges are activist judges. The current Supreme Court voted to allow global corporations to buy elections by making unlimited contributions (called free speech). As Thomas Jefferson if corporate money is free speech! Five Republican Party hacks overthrew the 2000 election because they thought it was unconstitutional for Americans to elect a Democrat to the Presidency.

    April 21, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  12. Matt, Manchester, CT

    "It is only fair that Obama be allowed to name a liberal judge. After all, Bush named tow activist conservative judges. Fair is fair, the Democrats won the last election. This time we get to appoint the judges. Funny how conservatives only think a judge is "activist:' when they don't agree with them."

    Boy, "Kathy," if that isn't a case of the pot calling the kettle black, I don't know what is. That's like a man extolling the virtues of fidelity while heading off to the next tryst. On one hand, you point out what you call "activist" Conservative judges appointed by George Bush. Then you talk about Conservatives using the term activist only when they don't agree with certain judges? Are you not doing the same exact thing for which you criticize others?????

    April 21, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  13. johnnyhouse

    They ,the supreme court , are responsible for the money situation we are in now by agreeing that people who choose to have a better life and willing to work for it should keep up the ones who don't ever intend to work. It is now cradle to the grave responsibility for taxpayers and the Supreme court is responsible for letting our congress get by with creating a social system that is unsustainable. I am speaking from over 70 years experience. Everyone worked that was able bodied, and sitting on your rear end and getting fat was not an option when I was big enough to do something that helped the family.As I grew my responsibilities grew.Too many people are dwelling on the past and using it as an excuse to sit down and take, take and take.

    April 21, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  14. jm for sc

    Mark,

    Many people thought that before. As it was before, it will be again. President Obama will be re-elected unless God has other plans for him.

    A liberal supreme court judge will follow the laws of the land rather than try to change to laws on the books. Since morals can not be legislated, then our president should select a judge of his choice. He should search his heart rather than try to please people who will hate him even if he gets everything right.

    April 21, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  15. Robert

    Of course he will. Just like asking if ducks swim. It is the only hope he has if getting any support for the stupid policies he is trying to enact. With luck, the Dems will lose the house and Coungress, so he will need a Lib in the court to try to stack the deck against the majority of Americans

    April 21, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  16. johnnyhouse

    If it was not for the Liberal Supreme court we would not need illegals to pick our fruit. There are enough prisoners in our prisons to do the job. Put their sorry rear ends in the fields and throw away the exercise benches and tvs. The Supreme court is also responsible for the mess we are in now. They are more interested in protecting these misfits than they are the people who are paying for these prisons. When it gets to the point that prison officials admit the prisoners are running the jails we have lost the fight. Socialism will bring this country down from within. It is self destructive and will not work.Russia found it out the hard way. If not for lawyers and judges we would not have the high cost of medical services that we do. Half your medical cost or more is for malpractice insurance not service.

    April 21, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  17. Pay to Play Nominee

    Whichever special interest group gives the most money or guaranteees the most votes to Obama will get to choose the nominee.

    If Obama were true to his campaign promise of running a transparent administration, he would put the seat on e-Bay instead of selling it behind closed doors.

    April 21, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  18. Anne

    Why shouldn't a liberal president pick a liberal judge? Did anyone expect Bush to not pick a conservative? Duh. I think the majority who voted for him want liberal judges.
    When the other party is in office again whenever that is, they can pick whom they want.

    April 21, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  19. Curt

    The present court is leaning so far to the right that anybody other then a liberal would send it over the edge and terribly close to fascism. A liberal scholar with courtroom experience is needed, what’s not needed is another Scalia.

    April 21, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  20. WDRussell

    The President couldn't find a person liberal enough to make up for Scalia, and his bobble headed doll, Thomas.

    April 21, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  21. Emmanuel Goldstein

    Will Obama appoint a liberal?

    Well, as an attorney, former law clerk to two federal judges, and one that has studied judicial selection and decision-making process extensively, my response would be: Is the Pope Catholic?

    April 21, 2010 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  22. SJB

    We hope so! The Supreme Court is more RADICAL RIGHT now than ever in it's history!

    April 21, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  23. cnn = 100% democrat support all the time

    kathy – activist judges are not liberal judges, they are judges that make law instead of interpreting existing law. grab a brain.

    April 21, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  24. Pete East

    Just because you think a judge is "liberal" or "conservative" leaning is no guarantee of thier future leanings. Being on the Court and knowing you have a lifetime appointment could bring out the other side in a judge. The experience of being on the Court can change a judge too.

    Frankly, I'd think it funny if President Obama appointed someone he thought a liberal, and then turned conservative.

    April 21, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  25. Daphne

    to Pam from Iowa – Bush was guilty of responding to "favors owed?"
    I had to LOL. Obama is all about special interest and "favors owed" 100% of the time. He lied and lied and lied about changing the ways of Washington and he did do that – by making it a 1000 times more egregious than it already was. He is the biggest hypocrite in the history of the world. He has made us the laughingstock of the world. Do you realize Obama bin Biden has never even run a lemonade stand and all he cares about is stealing money from hardworking Americans. Wake up Pam and put down the Kool Aid.

    April 21, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
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