A clear majority of Americans say John G. Roberts Jr. should be confirmed to serve on the Supreme Court but want him to state his views on abortion before the Senate votes on his nomination, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Nearly six in 10 Americans -- 59 percent -- believe the Senate should vote to confirm Roberts while 23 percent say it should not. The remainder expressed no opinion.
But the public wants to know more about Roberts and his attitudes on key legal issues before he is confirmed. Nearly two in three -- 64 percent -- say Roberts should publicly explain what his views are on abortion before the Senate acts.
The survey also suggests what the public would like to hear him say on the abortion issue: 65 percent say they want Roberts to vote to uphold Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion more than three decades ago. Support for that ruling is widely shared, the survey found, including eight in 10 Democrats, two-thirds of all independents and half of all Republicans.
Sixty-one percent of respondents want Roberts to answer questions about how he would have ruled on past cases before the court, an inquiry that would open the door for senators to fully explore the nominee's views on other hot-button issues such as affirmative action, gun control and same-sex marriage.
Since he was nominated by President Bush on Tuesday, Roberts has been a bit of an enigma to conservatives and liberals because of his limited public record.
The nominee has yet to provoke an intensely partisan reaction among the public, and taken together, the survey suggest that the initial public reaction to the Roberts nomination is broadly favorable. Big majorities of Republicans and political independents support him while Democrats and liberals are divided in their views.
According to the poll, just as many Democrats say he should be confirmed (41 percent) as say he should not be (40 percent). Large majorities of Republicans (84 percent) and independents (58 percent) believe the Senate should act favorably on his nomination.
While little may be known about his specific views, it is clear from his resume that he is reliably conservative. But few Americans view Roberts as politically extreme. About one in four -- 26 percent -- said he was "too conservative" while 9 percent said he was not conservative enough. The clear majority -- 58 percent -- said he appeared "about right."
Just as many Democrats said Roberts was acceptable (41 percent) as said he was too conservative (42 percent). Barely half of all liberals (53 percent) said he was too far to the right politically, although these percentages could change as more is known about him.
In question after question, Americans seem anxious to avoid the spectacle of a partisan fight in the Senate. By 53 percent to 41 percent, the public says senators should vote to confirm Roberts if they believe he has the right background and qualifications to serve on the high court but disagree with his judicial philosophy and legal opinions. Even four in 10 Democrats -- 38 percent -- say disagreement over Roberts' views alone should not disqualify him, a view shared by seven in 10 Republicans and nearly six in 10 independents.
While Democrats have questioned some of Roberts' legal opinions, his glittering resume -- honors at Harvard Law School, a clerkship with then-Associate Supreme Court Justice William H. Rehnquist and a successful record as a private attorney arguing cases before the Supreme Court -- has been praised by leaders of both parties.
Roberts was nominated to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman ever to serve on the high court. However, barely third of the public was disappointed that Bush did not name a woman to replace her.
A total of 500 randomly selected adults were interviewed Thursday night for this survey. Margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus 4 percentage points.