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

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

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/20/art.scotusth.gi.jpg caption="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. Tam

    He is the President. He decides. That's his job. Not listening to polls.

    April 21, 2010 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  2. NotFooledTX

    Will Obama add a liberal?

    Let's hope so!

    April 21, 2010 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  3. AJ

    Those who say they want a moderate are liars. What they want is a continuation of the extreme right wing Roberts court. I'm so tired of those that proclaim to be independents or moderates. Why can't they just tell the truth? Americans like an extreme right wing agenda until it becomes too embarrasing, then they decide they have to adopt a more liberal stance for one voting cycle or two. Then, if there is the least bit of change proposed, they run like frightened cattle to what they consider to be safe, the far right agenda of the republican party. I think the next time the right wingers win control of congress, democrats and progressives should just shut down. Let America have what America wants and see how they like it. I'm sure it would be a case of "be careful what you wish for" but the electorate is just too stupid to see it.

    April 21, 2010 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  4. Futon Torpedo

    Okay 1st.... It's your poll. Polls differe from each polling authority and form state to state. 2nd... The President should appoint a Liberal to the High Court as to challenge the Conservatives to get the great debate going again. i honestly feel all these safe picks aren't doing the country any true justice that a real push from both sides could bring to the table.

    Just my 3 cents.

    April 21, 2010 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  5. Torch

    A serious point to be made here is this. Depending on who is selected, the Republican's must give this nominee an intense level of scrutiny. The reason is because, and I will use gay marriage as an example, everywhere gay marriage is voted on by the people, it gets soundly defeated. However the Dems, push the progressive agenda via the courts, and that's why there is gay marriage in some states in spite of it not being approved by the electorate.

    A filibuster may be necessary. I have no faith in Obama selecting someone who is even remotely moderate. Do you think for a minute he hangs out with people like that? Of course not!

    April 21, 2010 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  6. cspurgeon

    I want him to pick a centrist who leans slightly left. I have no use for the right or the left and think stupid polls are a way to keep pollsters employued. Obama needs to pick his head,gut, and heart. He will do just fine.

    April 21, 2010 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  7. Ronnie, from New Orleans

    My President will makje his own choices, so you or who ever can go to you know where with your warnings, and BS. It will not influence him.

    April 21, 2010 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  8. James Miller

    We need balance. Right now we are top heave on conservatives ( some are ultra), especially Roberts. The last major ruling was an affront to the average citizen, opening the doors for unfettered campaign contributions from corporations, even those controlled by foreign interests. This country is slowly being strangled by the rich and powerful. --- Greed and corruption is everywhere and rampant.

    April 21, 2010 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  9. Steve

    I suspect as is typical of this president, he will neglect any and all polls and do whatever he wants and intends to do anyway. He does not have the capacity to listen to the people he governs.

    April 21, 2010 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  10. DA

    For those of you CNN wishes to mislead with their switch to fractions with just one poll result: one in five is 20 percent. So just over 20 percent want it illegal in all circumstances, you know, like other acts of homicide are.

    April 21, 2010 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  11. jim

    it doesn't much matter who he names ... any one up for the post will have to be approved by congress and that should assure a fair appointee.

    April 21, 2010 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  12. gjresid

    And we are supposed to believe this poll from CNN? CNN used to be a credible network, no more.

    April 21, 2010 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  13. geecee

    Liberal, Conservative, what does it matter? You heard the wise decision the Supreme Court made yesterday, protecting our First Amendment, and allowing movies of dog fights to be made and shown under the First Amendment's protection. Both Conservatives (5) and Liberals (4) voted and all but one (Conservative – Alito) voted FOR the right of the sick, perverted, mentally-deranged, psychotic filmmaker to show dogs ripping each other apart. Nice job, there "Supreme" Court. Gives a whole new meaning to the word "Supreme". I have lost all respect for this overrated branch of the Federal Government, especially after last year's ruling that allows corpations to control our elections with their money. Like that wasn't bad enough – now this support of the repugnant and revolting filmmakers. Ugh!!

    April 21, 2010 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  14. Monrob

    Elections have consequences and that's his choice.

    I hopes he places a big, fat, daring, young, LIBERAL. We need to counteract Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts.

    April 21, 2010 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  15. DSmith

    He should pick who wants to pick. The Supreme Court is a big joke. A bigger joke is polling people on should the president pick to sit on the court. America is sick of the abortion issue determining whether or not a justice should be selected for the Supreme Court. Our country is constantly moving toward the 1800's based on the so called morally pure. I can't believe our out of touch Senator's are the final decision makers on a SC nominee. Nothing worse than a bunch of 50, 60, and 70 year olds making judicial decisions. Although most are lawyers, the laws and times have changed so much they no longer understand the common people.

    April 21, 2010 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  16. Victor Hayes

    The president should appoint the most liberal justice that he can find and tell the rest to poll his middle finger!

    April 21, 2010 09:48 am at 9:48 am |

    Sounds more like a slanted article than fact! As is with most reporting these days, we get the author's opinion of what the results are instead of fact!

    April 21, 2010 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  18. CNN + Politics = Deception

    I wonder what the poll would have said if they used the word "progressive"? Probably not much better. What about the word "non-conservative"? Point is, word choice matters in polling. But then again, CNN Opinion-swaying Corp. knows this, and this is precisely why they word things a certain way.

    Given that a good chunk of the populace thinks the pres is a muslim, and is not actually a U.S. citizen, I now look with great skepticism on where we get our "news". And CNN is much at fault here.

    April 21, 2010 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  19. rightsaid

    The liberal judge=activist judge is a fallacy. Read up people!

    April 21, 2010 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  20. Seattle Sue

    Did G.W. Bush name 2 conservative people to the Supreme Court?

    April 21, 2010 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  21. Ron

    Every President chooses a justice that leans in his particular direction, liberal, conservative or moderate. That is the way it has always been. No mystery about it. So the other side and moan all they want about the choice but it was the same for Bush and everyone else before. Enjoy

    April 21, 2010 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  22. Brian Abrams

    only 46% !!!! plus these polls are landline phone polls so they don't reflect accurately on the younger more-liberal cell phone only voters...

    April 21, 2010 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  23. Mike in NYC

    Wow ... 73% of Americans want either a moderate or conservative on the bench. Not TOTALLY surprising. Also not surprising should be the fact that Obama is going to ignore what the people want to put on the most left wing liberal he can find floating around the justice system!

    April 21, 2010 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  24. lance corporal

    bush named extreme right wing radicals (which is not conservative) put a real liberal on the bench, it will still be a right leaning court

    April 21, 2010 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  25. tim indiana

    Nominate Harriet Meirs–that will make the wacko wingnuts happy.

    April 21, 2010 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
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