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. Josh

    The President will pick the right person for the job and we should stop telling him who he should or should not pick. I have confidence that he will pick the person who is needed to balance out the court.

    April 21, 2010 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  2. mel

    He should appoint a liberal,because cant you guys see what is going on in this country,the Gop is turning so far to the right its unbelievable,Arizonia is proving that,so is Virginia,can anyone sayJim Crow

    April 21, 2010 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  3. Ron in California

    Will Obama name a liberal to the Supreme Court.....are you kidding ? Of course he will. Despite the fact that 60 to 70 % of the US population are moderate he absolutely will do so. He hasn't cared yet about the middle Americans why should he start now? He needs such an appointment to work on his social agenda. This would impact the court long after he is voted out of office in 2012..

    April 21, 2010 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  4. tjaman

    In the context of Washington's current political climate, even a right-leaning moderate is considered a screaming liberal, so unless the president nominates Darth Vader - and even /if/ he does - the Rs will paint him as a screaming liberal and add it to their midterm election year posturing.

    April 21, 2010 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  5. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but...

    So a "liberal" justice retires and real Americans want to get another batsh!t crazy conservative justice in there? Sorry, man, but balance must be maintained. Unfortunately Americans have such a short memory that anyone left of Reagan is perceived as a "socialist" these days. Thanks, corporate soundbite media, for giving us a three second attention span. Have a nice day!

    April 21, 2010 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  6. Jill American

    Just shows how divided this country is. The court needs to be representative of the country so that means it must be a liberal and a woman .. preferrably one of color.

    April 21, 2010 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  7. Jeff

    He has to nominate a liberal. When is the last time a conservative nominated a liberal? Its just another field of partisanship. As long as there are rich people and poor people, there will be partisan politics in Washington. People usually vote in their economic interest. This nomination is nothing but a referendum on Roe vs. Wade. Why can't we just accept a woman's right to choice with respect to her own body? A woman risks her life every time she gives birth. Thats forcing someone to have a life-endangering surgery. You can either have safe abortions in doctors offices or unsafe ones in gas station bathrooms and basements, endangering two lives instead of just one. If LIFE is the real issue, then you have to be supportive a woman's right to choose whether or not to give up her's for a baby. They've been happening for thousands of years, and they will happen from now on. Its just a fact of life.

    April 21, 2010 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  8. Dis-Gusted

    We all know that the conservatives on the Supreme Court put G.W. Bush in power. Now look where we are from that decision.

    April 21, 2010 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  9. Courtney

    Will Obama name a liberal to SC? Is the sky blue?! Of course he will...

    April 21, 2010 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  10. Mike Syracuse, NY

    73% don't want a liberal. Do you get the message Obozo?

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

    I certainly hope so.
    When a Supreme Court favors big business on the American people there has to be a change!!

    April 21, 2010 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  12. Independent63

    Politicians rarely "represent" their constituents views and vote/appoint however they want...feeling that they know better. Why would this be any different? My congressman voted against 70% of the voters in my district and voted for the Health Care bill...even though an add on to the bill would cost 700 jobs in the district. That's why I refer to them as politicians and not representatives or statesmen. So I expect Pres Obama to appoint a liberal even though the vast majority of the American people want a moderate or conservative.

    April 21, 2010 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  13. haren

    CNN how about news of Republicans GOVERNMENT MOTORS paid loans again to became General motors, and saved 250000 union jobs.
    it is another slap on the face of republican for doing disservice to this country criticizing just for sake of political game.

    April 21, 2010 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  14. Anonymous

    Soulnd like the Liberals are more realistic than Conservatives, but that doesn't surprise me. They stick to that line no matter what.
    How about a good, qualified open-minded judge that will vote the case and nort a party?

    April 21, 2010 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  15. Ed Walsh

    According to this poll, 16% of the people surveyed believe the President will nominate a conservative for the Supreme Court. I never thought I would say this given the way literacy tests were abused during Reconstruction, but perhaps we need a test of some kind before people can vote.

    April 21, 2010 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  16. cjl

    Only 1 in 4 expect want him to appoint a liberal...pshhhaww...as if that will stop him. We already know how he views public opinion when he wants do do something (ref. Healthcare). ha.

    April 21, 2010 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  17. Dano

    There needs to be a somewhat liberal replacement for Stevens to counter the arch-conservatives Roberts & Alito that Bush appointed.

    April 21, 2010 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  18. MikeH

    What CNN political hack put up this ticker article? There's no name. Could it be someone who works for the Republicans, or someone embarrassed by what they were told to write by a pro-Republican editor?

    CNN, the road to your salvation is not trying to imitate Faux Spews. You'll do better if you don't try to stir up hostility.

    April 21, 2010 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  19. shucks

    Where did they poll this at a Tea Party rally?

    April 21, 2010 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  20. Adrian Moy

    How do you conclude that a poll "warns" President Obama on a Supreme Court nomination, when 25% want a liberal, and 37% want a moderate?
    That's 62% for a center-left justice, and only 36% for a conservative.
    If you ask me, the poll indicates the President has a free rein to pick whomever he wants. Some warning.
    When will CNN commit to real, objective journalism and provide a counterweight to the right wing and corporate propaganda machine? Oh, that's right, I forgot you're corporate.
    What passes for journalism these days is disgusting.

    April 21, 2010 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  21. Charlie

    It is time to test Obama's promise again if he is truly not partisan. If he is appointing a liberal, I think that is pure political and partisan. I voted for him, believing he will change Washington from politics as usual. I give him credit for good attention but he doesn't seem to be able to control his party from being infested by special interests.

    April 21, 2010 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  22. Julia - Native American from Idaho

    I trust a CNN pole about as much as I trust Sarah Palin to tell the truth about anything. What we do not need is any more right wing conservatives that will tell us what church we will go to "right wing evangelicals only, " and who can vote, literacy test based on your knowledge of the Bible. (or rather your interpretation of the Bible, and it must be consistent with the ring-wing's interpretation). Sound familiar, try German History another party had the same mind-set.

    April 21, 2010 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  23. Pam Eugene,OR

    The Republicans will say NO no matter who he picks. I sure didn't see Bush pick any liberals or moderates.
    We need balance in the court and President Obama needs to pick a liberal and I am sure he will.

    April 21, 2010 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  24. yen

    Somebody who can find the right balance. Don't go for extremism either way. Find the middle of the road.

    April 21, 2010 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  25. Ronnie A.

    Since when did President's pick Supreme Court justices based on polls? The President should appoint a justice who is QUALIFIED to be on the court and whose judicial posture he agrees with. Enough with the ideological picks like Roberts and Alito. We can see what that has gotten us.

    This was a very stupid and polarizing issue to poll.

    April 21, 2010 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
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