In Poll, 54% Back Alito's Confirmation

By Richard Morin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 22, 2005

A majority of Americans now support the confirmation of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court to fill the seat of retiring Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey found that 54 percent say the Senate should confirm Alito, while 28 percent say he should not be approved. That marks a modest increase in public support for Alito since November, when 49 percent said he should be confirmed and 29 percent said he should not. In both surveys, about one in five Americans said they did not know enough about the nominee to have an opinion.

Alito, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, is now about as popular as John G. Roberts Jr. was on the eve of his Senate confirmation hearings in September, the survey found. Roberts easily won Senate approval to be chief justice, breezing through his hearings and winning the votes of all 55 Republican senators and of half of their Democratic colleagues. It is uncertain whether Alito will go as effortlessly through his Senate confirmation hearings, which are scheduled to start on Jan. 9. The Senate hopes to hold a final vote on Alito by Jan. 20.

The new poll found some evidence that the abortion issue plays an important but not decisive role in shaping public perceptions of Alito. Although his current views on abortion are not publicly known, memos that he wrote two decades ago, while he was a lawyer in the Reagan administration's Justice Department, indicated that he opposed Roe v. Wade , the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Six in 10 in the survey said they hope Alito would vote to uphold Roe, while more than a third said they want him to vote to overturn it. But a majority of the respondents -- 55 percent -- said Alito's stand on abortion was only of limited importance to them. Seventeen percent said it was "extremely important," while 26 percent said it was "very important."

A total of 1,003 randomly selected adults were interviewed Dec. 15 to 18. The margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus three percentage points.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company