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. NY

    Excuse me! "Ticker: Poll warns Obama on big choice " <<– This choice of words is frightening.

    April 21, 2010 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  2. Mike Mc

    the only thing a liberal appointment would do is bring the court closer to the middle if anything..where was all the panic when Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito were appointed?

    April 21, 2010 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  3. jerseylou

    They better put a liberal on just to keep the Supreme Court balance! If not this Country will turn into Nazi Germany.

    April 21, 2010 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  4. stevegee

    There's no question. Obama will nominate another left-wing radical. If he could, he'd probably nominate himself.

    April 21, 2010 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  5. Prince

    Who warns the President of the United States? I am sick and tired of Obama-bashing, The Internet has made life a lot more unsettling because anybody with an email account can scatter screed. I for one never voted for a Democrat until Barack Obama. I like him and I feel he is trying to undo what the man I voted for twice got us into during his eight-year abomination. Barack Obama is not perfect- no one is. But he is an honorable and brilliant man. Back off and quit warning him about who he puts on the Supreme Court. Every President puts justices on the court who are in alignment with his and his party's interpretation of the Constitution. I may stop looking at the Internet. There is never anything positive but half-truths and lunatic-fringe accusations and threats. Enough is enough!!!!!

    April 21, 2010 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  6. Miguel in NY

    Obama has every right to nominate a liberal, just as his predecessor nominated two arch conservatives.

    April 21, 2010 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  7. Wisconsonite

    I predict that he will appoint a moderate, but everyone on the right will scream and rant and rave that he/she is a liberal!

    April 21, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  8. Gary

    This is another stupid poll. I'm a Liberal. Common sense says Liberals would want the President to name a Liberal (even though there's supposed to be no litmus test, yah da yah da yah da...). If only a quarter of those polled want the President to name a Liberal to the court, then it's a crappy sampling that is skewed too Conservative. More than half of all voters voted for Obama. Yes, not all of those who voted for him consider themselves Liberal, but it's got to be closer to 50% of the WHOLE country that would want him to name a Liberal minded judge to the court.

    April 21, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  9. fishel

    In my mind, I envisioned Hilary Clinton as being the most divisive president in United states, were she to be nominated and elected. I was certainly wrong in my thinking. Mr. B. Hussein Obama has "clinched that "honor". Or should I say, dishonor.

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

    President Obama should select someone far to the left, to counter the right wing nuts Bush selected that were far to the right!

    April 21, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  11. Jordan N.

    Why don't we actually wait until he nominates someone, instead of trying to write the news before it happens?

    April 21, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  12. tim nyc

    16 % of the people polled predicted Barack will pick a conservative!

    Great Poll....amusing at best. Perhaps not.

    Guess those are the Teabaggers who have time to hang around the The Great Lawn protesting their Social Security and Medicaid benefits.

    Too many simpletons in America. We need more education.

    April 21, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  13. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    As the health care thing proved, Obama doesn't care in the the slightest what the majority of Americans want.

    April 21, 2010 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  14. diridi

    what are these judges of supreme court standing for. Animal Cruelity they decided free speech. What a shame. Did they learn the principles of "Natural Justice" in their law schools. If not so, what are these American Law schools teaching?? All bogus schools. No wonder, kids graduating from Horward, Duke law schools do not find any kind of jobs, and on the roads. Teach these institutes some values, first and talk. Writer is a law grad, and has masters in labor laws. Ok, Last times, they passed on corporate involvement in politics. This is where America is....Shame.

    April 21, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  15. Jim

    Guarantee that Obama will ignore the people once again.

    April 21, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  16. Grog in Ohio

    What is it exactly that makes me people, usually right wing nut cases, continue to claim President Obama is a liberal? Was it escalating the war in Afghanistan? Was it continuing the illegal Bush warrantless wiretaps? Was it opening up offshore drilling? Was it deciding to NOT pursue allegations of torture and telling the CIA "I've got your back"?

    A liberal judge nomination by Obama is about as likely and logical as the same from Bush. Complete nonsense.

    April 21, 2010 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  17. Jonathan

    Obama should name a liberal and no one should stop him from doing it. The Court is after all losing it's most liberal member. Look at the neo-cons, young ones at that, that Bush put on the court. If the court is to be balanced then a liberal needs to be put in or at the very least a left leaning moderate.

    April 21, 2010 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  18. Jim

    Guarantee Obama will ignore the people once again.

    April 21, 2010 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  19. Ellie

    President Obama should pick whoever HE feels will do the best job when it comes to deciding cases as it pertains to the Supreme Court. President Obama is going to pick someone who will BALANCE OUT the existing group of Supreme Courts Justices. Bottom line.

    ALL other Presidents have done the SAME THING, so all this HOGWASH about who the POTUS picks and his choice is really stupid.

    Both Republicans and Democrats KNOW how the game has been played for decades after decades. So all this BS Theatrics is really getting downright silly.

    April 21, 2010 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  20. Bertina

    CNN is so ruled by polls that they will be shocked when they mean little or nothing.

    April 21, 2010 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  21. AZMN

    What did the polls say before Bush appointed an extreme conservative Justice and Cheif Justice.... he did what the Right Wing wanted and did not appoint moderates!!!

    April 21, 2010 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  22. Joshua Lumsden

    I would be interested in knowing how the respondents view the current makeup of the court. Perhaps a question asking how many of the current justices are liberal (or conservative) would be helpful. Better yet, I'd like to see the reponses tied to their expectations and assumptions regarding Obama's nomination.

    April 21, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  23. sensible Cape Coral FL

    President Obama could appoint Jesus Christ as his nominee and the Republicans would reject HIM as being too liberal – and they would be right.

    April 21, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  24. stevetall

    I love my country, but we get more stupid every day, or at least that's what the media is reporting.

    News flash, idiots: 'Liberal' is not a negative term. It's extremely positive, and it's why America became the great power that she is. 'Conservative', likewise, is not a negative term, though the way the Republicans interpret it, it is. 'Conservative' does not mean 'regressive'. We cannot retreat back to the 50's or the 80's. 'Conservative' is what the Muslim world is. Trying to force people back to an era that is mistakenly remembered as positive.

    Nothing could be further from the truth, so smarten up, pinheads! We will never be able to retreat to the dark ages.

    April 21, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  25. Mary

    The poll is further evidence that by and large, Americans are the least politically astute people on the planet. Most Americans don't realize that thanks to a conservative cabal set in motion by the Bushies and their henchmen, the Supreme Court has become the tool of the right wing to deprive Americans of civil liberties, effectively eliminate the protections of the Bill of Rights, and institutionalize corporate control over government. The real activist judges are Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas. Wake up, America!

    April 21, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14