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Polls Show Many Not Up to Speed on Alito

by Pete Ross

As the Senate Judiciary Committee begins hearings on the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court, public opinion polls indicate that Dems opposed to Alito have an uphill struggle. According to the most recent Harris Poll, conducted 12/8-14:

Almost equal thirds of all adults believe Judge Alito should be confirmed (34%), should not be confirmed (31%) or are not sure (34%). However, a majority of Republicans (65% vs. 9%) favor his confirmation, while a plurality of Democrats (48% vs. 14%) oppose it. Independents are split (34% for confirmation; 38% against).

The Harris poll reveals that the most formidable hurdle to defeating the Alito nomination may be ignorance about his views:

Opposition to the confirmation of Judge Alito would probably grow substantially if most people believed he would vote to make abortion illegal. A 69 to 31 percent majority of the public say they would oppose his confirmation if they thought he would vote to make abortion illegal. Majorities of Democrats (86%) and Independents (74%) feel this way. However, a majority of Republicans (56% vs. 44%) would support his confirmation if they believed he would vote to make abortion illegal.

The potential impact of abortion on Republican attitudes toward Judge Alito is particularly interesting. The 56 percent majority of Republicans who would support his confirmation if they believed he would vote to make abortion illegal is less than the 65 percent who now support his confirmation.

Other polls taken during the same period show stronger support for the Alito nomination. In an ABC News/Washington Post Poll conducted 12/15-18, 54 percent of respondents supported confirmation of Alito, with 28 percent opposed. But 61 percent said, if Alito is confirmed, they want him to uphold Roe v. Wade --- which is highly unlikely, given his stated views on abortion rights.

When a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll conducted 12/13-14 asked respondents "If you were voting on Samuel Alito's nomination, would you vote to confirm him or not?", 35 percent said they would vote for him and 27 percent said they would not. And a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted 12/9-11 found 49 percent in favor of Alito's confirmation, with 29 percent not in favor.

There are other compelling reasons, aside from abortion rights, for Dems to strongly oppose the Alito nomination, including his dismal record and archaic views on environmental protection, worker rights and individual liberties. Given the current ideological balance on the court, this is clearly the most important nomination in many years.

There is no guarantee that a better informed public would automatically translate into a Senate majority against his confirmation. But if Dems launch a strong public education campaign, backed up by an energetic "call your senator" effort, polls suggest Alito can be stopped.