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Poll: Nearly half support Sotomayor's confirmation

  • Story Highlights
  • Almost half of Americans favor Sonia Sotomayor as Supreme Court justice, poll says
  • Most Democrats support her while most Republicans oppose, according to poll
  • Sotomayor would succeed retiring Justice David Souter
  • Confirmation hearings set to start Monday
By Paul Steinhauser
CNN Deputy Political Director
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Days before the start of Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings, a new national poll indicates that by a narrow margin, Americans would like the Senate to confirm her as the next Supreme Court justice.

Critics warn confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor could turn into a partisan battle.

Critics warn confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor could turn into a partisan battle.

In a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Friday, 47 percent of people questioned would like to see the Senate vote in favor of Sotomayor's confirmation, with 40 percent opposed and 13 percent unsure.

Sotomayor, a New York federal appeals court judge, was nominated by President Obama in May to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

The poll suggests a partisan divide, with nearly seven in 10 Democrats supporting Sotomayor's confirmation, Independents split, and nearly two out of three Republicans opposing Senate confirmation. Read the poll (pdf)

"Republican opposition to Sotomayor's confirmation is a higher level of opposition from the party out of power than any Supreme Court nominee has faced in the past two decades," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

Only 32 percent of Republicans opposed Ruth Ginsburg's 1993 nomination by President Bill Clinton to the high court, Holland said.

"In 2005, when it was the GOP's turn to appoint justices, only 35 percent of Democrats opposed John Roberts, and 46 percent of Democrats opposed Samuel Alito the following year," Holland said. "And even when Bush nominated Harriet Miers, opposition among Democrats to her confirmation hit only 53 percent."

The poll also indicates that Americans are split over whether senators are justified in voting against Sotomayor, based solely on her stand on the issues.

Americans seem to agree that the confirmation hearings in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which begin Monday, could turn into a partisan battle.

Six out of 10 said a major fight between Democrats and Republicans will occur, with 38 percent saying that the hearings will be a relatively easy process with bipartisan agreement.

The percentage of those who would like to see Sotomayor confirmed in the CNN poll is lower than in other national surveys released in the past few weeks.

"One possible reason why the CNN poll shows less support for Sotomayor than other recent polls is a difference in the question wording," Holland said. "Polls by other organizations have described Sotomayor as Barack Obama's choice for the Supreme Court. But in order to make historical comparisons, the CNN poll used a question dating back to 1987 that does not mention the president's name."

Americans can be swayed by a familiar name, in this case Obama, when questioned about someone who has not been in the public eye, Holland said.

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"Some of Obama's popularity may have rubbed off onto Sotomayor in polls conducted by other organizations," Holland said. "Ultimately, however, Supreme Court nominees rise or fall on their own merits."

The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey was conducted from June 26 to 28, with 1,026 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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