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. Col Kilgore

    Of course he should appoint a liberal. Needs to offset Bushes far right picks. Fair and balanced.

    April 21, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  2. Fair_is_Fair

    I'm not sure why its even a question for the repubs. When Bush was in the White House, he selected 2 pretty conservative justices. Why on earth would repubs expect Obama to select what they want. Thats why things don't get done, repubs want everything their way. I hope Dems get a backbone and support The Big O with whatever choice he comes up with. Its bound to be better picks than Alito or Roberts. We need someone with a keen mind that does decides based on the constitution AND what is relevent to the 21st century. We need a balance to Roberts.....someone who can be a step ahead of him in thinking and fairness.

    April 21, 2010 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  3. rosko

    This is dumb and stupid and moronic. People don't know what these concepts mean in the context of the judiciary; and those judges that embrace political categories as a judicial philosophy are ALL conservative. The poll is ridiculous as well b/c it tells you nothing except that "conservatives" want a conservative judge and everyone else is split between moderate and liberal. This BS just reinforces the myth that such categories truly exist in the law.

    April 21, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  4. Dale

    OF COURSE he'll pick a liberal.

    This is the most Liberal, socialist president in history. What do you think?

    He don't care about what polls say. Look at Health Care..... This president and administration think they are running a school and that they don't work for anyone.

    If this were us, we would have already been fired. Lawyers running the country,,,,, what the h*ll is the matter with us people? Lawyers will ALWAYS make new laws, fight over existing laws and drain American tax dollars.

    It's the perfect job if you don't have a soul.

    April 21, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  5. skurfer

    He should definitly pick a liberal to offset the activist judges that Bush named.

    April 21, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  6. Padraig

    The president will name who he wants to. I don't really believe he cares what most of us think anyways. The man who promised getting input from the people is worse than President Bush.

    April 21, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  7. Dr. Virginia Lubell

    Polls are bizarre. For example 'the polls' showed that people opposed the health care bill. However those 'polls' did not define whether people were opposed because they wanted Universal health care, single payer or a public option compared to those who thought it was Big Government ... although the health care reform was a Big Business issue and not a Big Government one.

    If this country is moving toward the type of conservatism being played out in the media that's pretty terrifying. I come from a long line of people who fought so I could work 5 days/week and 8 hours/day rather than have to work 7 days/wk and 15 hours/day. I come from a long line of people who fought for my rights as a woman to be free, to vote, to get equal pay and set my family size.

    April 21, 2010 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  8. Michael in Houston

    Ya...thats what we need...another angry conservative...in a robe.

    April 21, 2010 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  9. Michael from Ventura

    He must nominate a Liberal. Period. There cannot be a chance to turn 5-4 to 6-3. Too much is at stake.

    April 21, 2010 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  10. JonDie

    A liberal is what the Court needs; there are already four corporate neofascists (Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito) who have dedicated their lives to destroying our country and our Constitution.

    April 21, 2010 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  11. Minnesotan

    Duh! This isn't rocket science CNN. 1/3 of this nation is conservative, 1/3 is moderate, and 1/3 is liberal. Ask the same question of Bush's options and you'd get the same stats.

    April 21, 2010 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  12. Fitz In Texas

    :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."
    ************************
    Oh so many ways to comment on this one and the best way is...........yeah, right...sure CNN, 61 percent....keep dreaming.

    April 21, 2010 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  13. tess

    since when does o'dumbo either listen to or care what the american people want – afterall, he IS the king of the world (at least in his mind!) his fall from grace is going to be awfully hard – considering how hard he is going to hit!!!! can hardly wait -------2012 !! ! ! !

    April 21, 2010 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  14. Harry Baxter

    There isn't a reason in the world why the President shouldn't nominate a Liberal. I often wonder who participates in these polls. Any woman who thinks that Obama should nominate a Moderate or Conservative would be voting against the interests of women. The Democrats gave Bush a pass when they accepted Roberts and Alito without a fight. let's hope that this time, they'll show a litle more gumption and integrity.

    April 21, 2010 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  15. felicia

    I hope President Obama choose who he thinks suits him. I wouldn't listen to cnn, and d^mn sure wouldn't listen to the repigs.

    April 21, 2010 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  16. Luke Brown

    These kinds of surveys and stories about them are so polarizing and off-track.

    Over 95% of the cases decided by the Court are not decided along ideological lines. The media plays this kind of 5-to-4 stuff because it is simple and they can't figure out a better way to communicate what the Court is all about.

    April 21, 2010 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  17. Changing from CNN to MSNBC!!!

    CNN, you and your stupid polls! We the silent majority will speak LOUDLY come november...give it a rest about this supreme court justice thing..it's NOT CNN'S decision! it's the President's!

    April 21, 2010 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  18. Tamara in Montana

    Why is the President even wasting his time talking with Republicans? The party has been hijacked by the fringe and nothing less than a far-to- the- right candidate will pass muster with them. The word moderate no longer exists within the GOP leadership and no moderate candidate for the high court will be good enough for them. You can't reason with the unreasonable, so the President's wasting time.

    Mr. Obama: Do what the majority of voters in this country elected you expect you to do: appoint a liberal moderate to any high court vacancy!

    April 21, 2010 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  19. Luis Vazquez

    Just like Healthcare, Obama will do what Obama wants to do. We The People of the United States don;t matter to him. He ONLY really cares about the FAR LEFT and pleasing them. I say this based on his ACTIONS.

    April 21, 2010 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  20. Jon

    You have got to be kidding with this poll! Abortions willl never go away – nor should they. Let people decide what they want to do in their own lives. I thought this was supposed to be a free country.
    It seems that everybody is telling everybody else how they should live. I think a policy of "mind your own business" sounds fine to me.

    April 21, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  21. louise

    I certainly hope it is a moderate to liberal woman. We need more balance. Another Sandra Day O'Connor, Thoughtful and FAIR for all Americans.

    April 21, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  22. gurarro

    Who are you polling and why? The President has the right to nominate whomever he considers the best choic for the lifetime appointment. He is a smart man and will nominate someone that is more than qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice !!!

    April 21, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  23. Aaron P

    I say screw those people that feel he should nominate a conservative. Did George Bush consider a moderate or liberal? No! He sent in the conservative re-enforcements. I think he should send someone just left of the moderate viewpoint. As he is assured to get re-elected, he should have at least 1, maybe 2 more bites at the Supreme Court Apple. I hear Uncle Thomas wants to leave also. Maybe Obama can then send in the person who would be only the second Black person to be on the Supreme Court.

    April 21, 2010 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  24. Jack

    No matter who Obama appoints, the Republicans will shriek 24/7 that the nominee is a world-ending, ultra-left-wing, evil communist out to destroy everything that has ever been good and right in the world. The press will lap this up, waxing profound about shady associations with groups like the League of Women Voters, or perhaps a university term paper written about the slave trade.

    It is a certainty that the Republicans will block any nomination, simply because Obama is doing the nominating. Obama could nominate Orrin Hatch and the Republicans would rise up as one to screech about what a horrible lefty he is.

    Our political system is utterly broken. It's not Democrats or Republicans who are ultimately to blame, though – it's all of us voters, who keep sending these lackwits back to work.

    April 21, 2010 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  25. Hendrik

    The Republicans in Arizona would like nothing more than to place all people who look hispanic in some form of camp. How about some illigal alien truth commissions? Jerks.

    April 21, 2010 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
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