Poll: Majority would oppose Alito if he would overturn Roe
Samuel Alito meets with Sens. Orrin Hatch, left, Arlen Specter, second from left, and Patrick Leahy, right.
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- A majority of Americans say President Bush's pick to fill Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court should not be confirmed if his confirmation hearings reveal that he would vote to overturn a woman's right to have an abortion, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll released Monday.
The Senate Judiciary Committee began hearings Monday on the nomination of federal appeals court Judge Samuel Alito to the high court.
Fifty-six percent of those polled said that they would not support the nomination if they were convinced during the hearings that Alito would overturn the landmark abortion ruling, Roe v. Wade, that guaranteed the right to an abortion. (View poll results)
Thirty-four percent said they would back the nomination in that event. Most questions in the poll had a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Fifty-three percent of those polled described themselves as "pro-choice"; 42 percent characterized themselves as "pro-life."
In a 1985 application for a job in the Reagan administration, Alito wrote that he saw no constitutional basis for a right to have an abortion.
Tough questions for nominee
Several Democratic senators, including Patrick Leahy of Vermont -- the ranking Democrat on the committee -- have said that Alito must answer questions about his positions on abortion. And at least one senator, Charles Schumer of New York, said if those answers indicate he would favor overturning Roe, it would increase the chances of a Democratic filibuster against him. (Full Story)
Republicans, however, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, have said that they see no rational reason for a filibuster and that what Alito said in a 1985 job application has no bearing on how he would rule in court now.
Without knowing Alito's answers to questions on abortion, more than 20 percent of those responding to the poll said they didn't know enough about the judge to decide whether to support him.
Forty-nine percent said he should be confirmed by the Senate, and 30 percent said he should not. The numbers are virtually the same as another poll taken early last month.
Most people seem to view Alito as relatively mainstream -- 52 percent said his views are mainstream, while 30 percent said they are too extreme, and 49 percent said he is "about right" on the liberal-conservative spectrum, while 29 percent said he is too conservative and 6 percent said too liberal. Those questions had a sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
The nomination has engendered interest. Sixty-three percent said they planned to follow the confirmation hearings closely -- 18 percent very closely -- compared with 59 percent who said the same in August when the Senate panel held hearings on the nomination of John Roberts to be chief justice.
Alito is the third person Bush has nominated to fill O'Connor's seat. Roberts' nomination was withdrawn when Bush tapped him for chief justice, and White House counsel Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination after opposition from conservative Republicans.
O'Connor has said she will remain on the court until her replacement is confirmed.
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