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. Susan L.

    Who are you polling? Mainly right wingers? A Conservative? Since when is "Conservative" a good word? If the court had been "Conservative", there would be no voting rights, no civil rights, no women's rights, Corporations would have even more rights than individuals than they already do, people arrested would have fewer rights to defend themselves. A more Conservative Court than we already have would be a HUGE disaster for Democracy and Freedom. We have already gone WAY too far to the right. But, apparently, the people you poll won't be happy until we regress all the way back to Feudalism. Who are these morons you talk to? And why are you talking to them and mainly them? I find it very hard to believe that the nation as a whole is so extremely far right that they approach Nazism.

    April 21, 2010 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  2. Susan

    I don't believe this poll at all. Polls can be inaccurate. How old where the people doing the poll, where did they poll, when and what type of phones, cell or land line, what time of day, wat area of the country? In numerous polls taken over the decades it is clear that the majority of Americans want to keep abortions rights legal. It is also clear that the majority of Americans disagree with the current right winged supreme court decision to allow foreign interests to sway American elections, by allowing them to contribute unlimited amounts of money to politial campaigns. I am really sick of these organizations conducting polls that they don't qualify and then estrapilating a statement from that of what most Americans want. Mr President please put a liberal on the bench, the court is way out of balance with the belief system of the majority of Americans. We need to move to the middle.

    April 21, 2010 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  3. Jin

    Given the radically activist nature of the present Court, Obama needs to consider how to balance the Court so the American people get an advocate for personal freedoms over those of the Oligarchy.

    April 21, 2010 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  4. Dan V

    Hope for a moderate, expect nothing but the most hard line liberal.

    April 21, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  5. gary

    He should nominate Goodwin Liu to the Supreme Court. He's a constitutional law scholar, sits on the Board of Trustees at Stanford, clerked for Justice Ginsburg, and he's a Rhodes scholar.

    April 21, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  6. Jeff in Virginia

    The fact that CNN is even asking a poll with this question shows the vast differences between the left and the right.

    Did CNN run this poll when George W. Bush was about to nominate a justice? Of course not. Everybody correctly assumed that he would nominate conservatives.

    Demanding that liberals govern from the center while not making the same demands of conservatives is hardly a balanced stance.

    April 21, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  7. Becky

    Just because Faux News says Barack Obama is a "liberal" doesnt mean he is one...Man oh Man....an educated Democracy does not work when so many Americans are brain washed by the corporate media.

    April 21, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  8. Milbank

    Since when has Obama sided with a majority of Americans. He is going to appoint another liberal hack like himself who is bent on further eroding what originalist intended for our great country.

    April 21, 2010 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  9. Seth in Jacksonville, FL

    He should. Absolutely he should. Bush appointed conservatives, and it's already unfortunate that we have a 5-4 conservative tilt. We elected the man – this is his choice to make.

    April 21, 2010 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  10. wiliam jackson

    Stand For What Is Right Mr. President,Who Ever You Name It Is Your
    Choice And No One Else, I'm Sure You Will Make The Right Choice
    When The Time Come.

    April 21, 2010 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  11. LIP

    It has always been the choice of the President who they select and it should always stay that way. The Senate can always do their investigation and vote accodingly, but the President has the right to make his or her selection however they see fit.

    April 21, 2010 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  12. Eddie B

    Obama should nominate a liberal even though it will be a tough battle. Stevens was a liberal and the court should be balanced. Right now there are too many far right conservatives on the court with Alito, Thomas, Roberts, and Scalia. Kenneday sometimes goes right. This was a big reason why Obama was elected and that is to balance the court and to tip it back to the middle.

    April 21, 2010 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  13. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Although I know he's going to pick Kagan, I'm not sure that she's liberal enough.

    April 21, 2010 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  14. renobill

    I'm sure Obama will pick try to pick a middle of the roader. His lack of courage is unbelievable. He is scared to death of the Repukes. What a loser. I thought I was voting for a Lyndon Johnson who would make real Liberal social change. He's better than Bush, the old timer, and the bimbo, but that's sure not saying much.

    April 21, 2010 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  15. White Lotus

    I'd like to see someone who is highly intelligent who can interpret the constitution as competently as Justice Stevens did. What difference does it make if they are liberal or conservative or pro-life? Get someone who can do the job and do it very well!

    April 21, 2010 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  16. Michael

    This is a great illustration of the political problem we have right now in our country: all Republicans have shifted so far into extremist territory that they are unwilling to consider moderation of any kind.

    April 21, 2010 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  17. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    Obama could nominate John Boy the fact is who ever gets nominated better have a clean record with no mistakes because the fights on .

    April 21, 2010 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  18. annie s

    Let us hope that the President makes his decision based on the merit of the nominee and not on any silly poll.

    April 21, 2010 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  19. Don

    Why shouldn't he nominate a liberal? The Republicans will only nominate ultra conservatives. If Republican presidents appointed moderates, then Obama could. There has to be some balance.

    April 21, 2010 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  20. rstlne

    I am really sick and tired of hearing all about the polls and the results they CLAIM to have received. I looked at the pdf of these results, and as usual, there is absolutely no mention of who is being polled and how it was decided who to contact for the poll. I am tired of being expected to believe that these polls are absolutely a correct barometer of public opinion. It seems to me that right-wing conservatives are the only people being asked to participate in these polls. They make it appear that the entire country is against the president in all policy matters, ant that the entire country is aligned with the religious right. I am starting to wonder exactly what kind of scam these polls are working!

    April 21, 2010 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  21. AndyBlue

    I hope the most liberal person in the United States is chosen. When the supreme court sides with big corporations over all the citizen in the US. something is really wrong.

    Thank the Bush appointees for that disgraceful decision.

    The damage from the Bush years is still alive and well in Justice Roberts.

    GO OBAMA!!!!!

    April 21, 2010 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  22. Chuck

    He'll replace a liberal with a liberal. Do people really expect him to pick a moderate after the moderate, swing vote justice was just replaced with a solidly conservative pick? Duh...

    April 21, 2010 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  23. MsDp

    Well since no one asked me, I'll tell you anyway. I WANT THE PRESIDENT TO NOMINATE WHOM EVER HE DECIDES! Futhermore, I HOPE HE NOMINATES WHOM EVER HE DECIDES, you get it? It's HIS choice and whatever choice he makes, we will ALL EXCEPT THAT!

    April 21, 2010 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  24. ThinkAgain

    Conservatives believe that corporations are more important than people.

    We need a liberal on the Court!

    April 21, 2010 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  25. Dave

    Will the sun rise tomorrow? Why ask the obvious?
    Did you guys learn this is the most leftist (new leftist), most elitist, most self important, most narcissistic president we ever had!? The guy gets an idea out of thin air and goes with it regardless whether it is good or bad or if people like it or not, just because B.O. got the idea it becomes the most important idea upon earth! And with the "free press" on his side he can go a long way this way!

    April 21, 2010 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
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