Bench Memos

Sotomayor vs. Roberts and Alito

In a post yesterday, I invited readers to inform me of any polls showing more public support for Judge Sotomayor than Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito enjoyed at a comparable point in the confirmation process.  A reader has kindly called to my attention this Pew report, which states:

By a margin of 50% to 23% Americans say that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor should be confirmed. Her level of public support is much greater than was the case for Samuel Alito (33%) and about the same as support for Chief Justice John G. Roberts (46%) at roughly the same point in their confirmation processes.

But this comparison seems flawed.  First, the Alito and Roberts data came just before their confirmation hearings started, whereas the Sotomayor data is from after the hearing.  Given the bump that the hearing typically provides—Sotomayor had a ten-point swing, according to Rasmussen Reports—it is curious that the report would contend that the data is from “roughly the same point in their confirmation processes.”  Second, and relatedly, the Pew data for Alito shows that he enjoyed a 52%-29% margin among those who were following the nomination closely.  (His total numbers in the pre-hearing poll were 33% yes, 19% no, and 48% “don’t know.”)