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Poll: Support for Miers not as high as that for Roberts

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George W. Bush
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Americans, particularly conservatives, are less supportive of President Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court than they initially were for his nomination of John Roberts, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Tuesday night.

The poll, taken Monday and Tuesday, indicated many people are concerned about Miers' lack of judicial experience.

Asked to rate Bush's nomination of Miers, 44 percent of those polled described it as excellent or good, while 41 percent said it was fair or poor and 15 percent had no opinion.

Among respondents who described themselves as conservative, 58 percent said the Miers pick was excellent or good, and 29 percent thought it was only fair or poor. By contrast, 77 percent of conservatives in a July poll thought the Roberts nomination was excellent or good, and just 13 percent found it fair or poor. (Watch: Americans cool toward Miers -- 1:14 )

The sampling error for the polling data from conservative respondents was plus or minus 6 percentage points.

Among those who consider themselves moderates and liberals, the difference in support between Miers and Roberts was statistically insignificant.

At an afternoon White House news conference, Bush praised Miers.

"I picked the best person I could find," Bush said Tuesday. "People are going to be amazed at her strength of character and her intellect."

Bush, who announced Miers as his choice to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on Monday, said his nominee shares his views on the law.

"I don't want someone to go on the bench to try to supplant the legislative process," he said. "I'm interested in people that will be strict constructionists, and Harriet Miers shares that philosophy." (Full story)

In a similar poll after Roberts was nominated in July, 51 percent described his selection as excellent or good, while just 34 percent found it fair or poor and 15 percent had no opinion.

Most people surveyed in the new poll -- 74 percent -- believed President Bush chose Miers, 60, in part because of their close ties.

The White House has denied accusations of cronyism and Bush said, "I've known her for more than 10 years. She's a woman of principle and deep conviction."

Miers is also considered a private person who works long hours behind the scenes. She also has written far fewer legal documents than Roberts did during his work for the federal government and in private practice.

Poll respondents were asked if a lack of information on Miers' views on issues would make them more or less likely to support her. Nearly half -- 49 percent -- said it would make their support less likely; only 12 percent said it would make them more likely to support her, and 33 percent said it would make no difference.

Unlike Roberts, who was a justice at the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia, Miers has never been a judge. (Watch: Miers has no judicial experience -- 2:30)

Asked about the effect of Miers' lack of judicial experience on their support, 46 percent said it made them less likely to support her; just 10 percent said it made their support more likely, and 42 percent said it made no difference.

"I'm very happy with the fact that we have someone who has been nominated by the president who is like approximately 39 other people who have served on the court -- people who have had no judicial experience," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a trial lawyer from Nevada, said Monday. "I think that's a plus, not a minus."

If confirmed, Miers would be the third woman ever to serve on the high court, but her gender was less of a factor among those polled.

About two-thirds said gender made no difference in their support, while only 29 percent said it made them more likely to support her. Miers had more support among women; roughly 37 percent said gender played a role in their support versus 19 percent of male respondents.

And 82 percent of all respondents said they would not have been bothered if Bush had picked a man to replace O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the high court.

A majority of those polled -- 55 percent -- also said they believe senators should insist that Miers answer questions about her views on abortion before voting on confirmation, while 42 percent said senators should not press her for those answers.

Bush said he does not recall ever speaking with Miers about her views on abortion.

The poll of 803 adults had a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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