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. gary

    If he doesn't pick a liberal, Obama will lose votes...and he knows it. The Court is way to the activist right and needs to be balanced in some way. I hope he picks Clinton (Hillary or Bill–neither is "too old") or Hu, the young Asian judge who was a professor of law at the University of California, Berkley.

    April 21, 2010 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  2. Patrick

    If anyone doesn't think the most liberal senator and most liberal President we've ever had isn't going to nominate a liberal to the Supreme Court they haven't been paying attention the last four years.

    April 21, 2010 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  3. JB Sullivan

    I hope he chooses a liberal to balance out the conservative ideology that just decided that corporations have more rights than a person under the US Constitution.

    April 21, 2010 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  4. Tracy

    How about just a judge with common sense....one that won't think that videos depicting animal cruelty are covered under the First Amendment. Yeah, just get government out of the way and soon you'll have an opportunist company selling porno and alcohol to minors. Okay, maybe that's a stretch, but coming soon to your kids....animal snuff videos made in third world countries. I'm not an animal lover, or PETA member, in fact, I grew up hunting.

    April 21, 2010 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  5. Mike

    I am sure nobamby will nominate a fellow flaming clueless liberal like himself to play Robin Hood is the way to go.

    April 21, 2010 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  6. Dave Clark

    Yes he will pick a liberal as is his right, this pick will not change the court.
    I would like to see him pick a centrist. I just hope his pick will not use other countries laws in making decisions on constitutional law. The job of a Supreme is to make a judgment on the US Constitution not what some other country has for a law.

    April 21, 2010 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  7. Ancient Texan

    I'm doubtful the president will listen to the people that answer a poll. He didn't listen on healthcare. So the most liberal he can find is a good bet.

    April 21, 2010 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  8. TCM

    With Obama being the most anti-American, traditions-hating liberal to step foot in Washington, any appointee he makes he could justify as "conservative," relative to him....

    April 21, 2010 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  9. Christie

    Who are these people being polled? How is the question asked? I have very serious doubts about your polls. The President has the right to appoint his choice. Where were the polls when Alito and Roberts were appointed?

    April 21, 2010 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  10. Donatella

    Obama is the president, he should pick whoever he fills is qualified, did anybody ask Bush to pick a moderate when he picked that ultra-conservative Roberts, I don't think so.

    April 21, 2010 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  11. Stacey27

    So Bush gets to appoint 2 very conservative judges but Obama can't nominate a liberal? I don't think so and I am a former Republican.

    Obama is President and he can pick whomever he wants so long as they are qualified.

    April 21, 2010 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  12. Daniels Democrat

    When does it matter what the American people want?

    April 21, 2010 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  13. Mm14

    Well, it's unclear that there's a warning here for the president. The problem is that the catch-all terms liberal and conservative mean different things to different people. Many in the Tea Party identify as moderate independents, even though their views are far right. I am registered and identify as an independent, although I've never voted for a Republican candidate. So it's probably more informative to poll on specific issues or qualities in a jurist, versus using broad-brush terms -liberal conservative etc- that have become synonymous with zealot ideologue in this age of polarizing poltical discourse.

    April 21, 2010 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  14. Copying From The Smart Kid in Class?

    The President must win re-election and then set up Hillary Clinton and another woman as his successor.

    I'd like to see Clinton move over to Secretary of Defense [if Gates retires]. I'd like to see Joe Biden on the re-election ticket and then move over to Secretary of State. President Obama should then name Jennifer Granholm as his VP.

    Granholm and Clinton can compete for the Presidency in the primary. They would win and control the White House for 16 years. Each could then make history by naming the 1st former President to the Supreme Court ... Barack H. Obama

    April 21, 2010 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  15. Dean

    With the Supreme Court's recent decisions someone needs to be appointed who understands and believes in our Constitution and can get our current members back on track.

    April 21, 2010 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  16. j williamson

    Republicans/conservatives already control the court. Didn't they prove this when they placed King George W. Bush in the oval office back in 2000? Let's have a little balance here.

    April 21, 2010 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  17. RepugnantCon

    This is idiotic. Of course he should nominate a liberal. Stevens is a liberal and the court has been moving dramatically to the right in recent years. The only way Obama can protect any kind of balance is to replace Stevens with another liberal. Those who say he should nominate a conservative are dreaming. Why would a center/left president move the already conservative court further to the right? That is insane. Anything other than a liberal will be a terrible disappointment.

    April 21, 2010 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  18. johnnyhouse

    Who in the world would ask such a question with a straight face?

    April 21, 2010 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  19. RepugnantCon

    His nominee should be as moderate as John Roberts and Samuel Alito. In other words, not at all. If Bush could get extreme conservatives approved then Obama should be able to get a liberal approved. The scales of justice are weighing too heavily to the right. We need balance. We need a liberal.

    April 21, 2010 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  20. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    The 54% of Americans who voted for President Obama, knew that he is a liberal and we are okay with this. Many of us, are liberals and we fully expect that the next Supreme Court justice will be liberal, just like when Bush chose a nominee they were conservatives.

    The BIG story this morning is GM! They are paying back the billions they borrowed from U.S. and Canadian Tax Payers!

    BRAVO GM! Thank you! Now the Tea Party can't accuse President Obama of controlling the auto industry!

    April 21, 2010 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  21. HenryIV

    Obama ought to select a liberal, or a moderate leaning left. Because, trust me on this, his last appointment, Sotomayer, over time will lean right and possible becomes a conservative.

    April 21, 2010 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  22. Cosmo

    He needs to name the most radical and committed liberal he can find in order to counter the effect of the radical conservative, judicial activist twins Roberts and Alito who the country will have to endure for the next 30 years.

    April 21, 2010 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  23. Charles W. Skinner

    The story should read "The survey indicates that ONLY 21 percent now say abortion should be legal in all circumstances. " Notice how they try to soften the blow of that number. I wonder how long it will be before the Supreme Court actually fixes the Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey disasters that it created.

    April 21, 2010 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  24. johnnyhouse

    On the other hand he might not ,if he is trolling for Conservative votes and need them bad enough, which has been proven to be not necessary in his government and this Congress.

    April 21, 2010 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  25. Libertarian

    "But a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in Church and State." - Thomas Jefferson

    And the far right continues to pervert Christianity. Our Founding Fathers believed in SEPARATION of Church and State. The original pledge of Allegiance DID NOT HAVE THE WORDING "UNDER GOD" until the mid-50's. The right has to understand that we TRUE AMERICANS despise a "favored religion" in our gov't.

    I wish these guys would READ THE CONSTITUTION as it explicitly says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion".

    April 21, 2010 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
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