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Poll: Alito should sit on high court

Supreme Court nominee expected to win panel support Tuesday


Did Samuel Alito's testimony help you decide if he is suitable to be a Supreme Court justice?
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Supreme Court
Samuel Alito
Crime, Law and Justice

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A majority of Americans said the Senate should confirm federal appellate judge Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court, with just 30 percent opposing his confirmation, according to a poll released Monday.

Only 38 percent of respondents said they think a filibuster by Democratic senators would be justified, and about a third said they believe Alito would vote to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court decision that struck down state laws against abortion.

The CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey of 1,006 U.S. adults was conducted Friday through Sunday and had a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. (Watch how abortion debate shapes views on Alito -- 1:46)

Support for Alito's confirmation grew after widely televised confirmation hearings, the poll found. Before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, held January 11-13, 49 percent of respondents backed his nomination. In the poll released Monday, 54 percent expressed support.

The percentage of people who opposed his confirmation remained unchanged after the hearings, Monday's poll found.

The committee is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the nomination, which would then go before the full Senate.

If confirmed, Alito would replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a swing vote on the court who has voted to uphold abortion rights.

During his hearings, the judge -- who stated his opposition to abortion rights in a 1985 application for a job in the Reagan administration -- told senators he would approach the hot-button issue with "an open mind."

Monday's poll was released on the 33rd anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, which found state laws banning abortion to be an unconstitutional violation of the right to privacy.

The date once again brought out supporters and opponents of abortion rights, with President Bush telling those marching against abortion rights that their cause was "a noble one." (Full story)

Only 34 percent of those surveyed said they believe Alito would vote to reverse Roe, while 44 percent said they think he would not. Another 21 percent said they were not sure.

Only 25 percent of those polled said they believe the precedent should be overturned, while 66 percent said they believe Roe should stand.

Bush nominated Alito on October 31 after his White House counsel, Harriet Miers, withdrew from consideration.

Of those surveyed, 48 percent said a Democratic filibuster of the nominee would not be justified, while 38 percent said it would be. Another 15 percent said they were not sure whether a filibuster -- the use of extended debate to block a Senate vote on the nominee -- would be justified.

Speaking Monday in Kansas, Bush praised Alito and called on Senate Democrats to avoid a filibuster.

"His judicial philosophy is clear and his judicial temperament is sound," Bush said.

"I believe that if given an up-or-down vote, he'll be confirmed."

All 10 Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have endorsed the federal judge, assuring his approval by the panel, though most of the eight committee Democrats are expected to oppose him.

Republicans hold 55 seats in the full Senate, making it difficult for Democrats to raise enough opposition to block an eventual floor vote.

Democrats have publicly refused to rule out a filibuster, but that option appears unlikely, Senate sources said last week.

One Democratic senator on the Judiciary Committee, New York's Charles Schumer, said Sunday that "nothing is off the table. We're still weighing all of the issues."

"To vote against him is one thing, and to filibuster requires what I think is a much higher standard: Do you believe that the nominee is so far out of the mainstream that he will use the enormous power he gets on the Supreme Court to impose his views on the country?" Schumer told CNN.

The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee said last week he believed Alito would fail to check what he views as the president's inappropriate expansion of executive power. (Full story)

"I'm not going to lend my support to an effort by this president to move the Supreme Court and the law radically to the right and to remove the final check within our democracy," Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont said Thursday.

Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, said last week that he will vote to confirm Alito.

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