More from the L.A. Times poll:
With the prospect of several federal supreme court justices retiring at some point over the next four years,
including the ailing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, George W. Bush is likely to be given the
opportunity to name several nominees and preside over the selection of a new chief justice. The survey
found that while most Americans (65%) said they fully expect any Bush nominee to the country’s highest
court to be politically conservative, there is not widespread alarm at the prospect.
Overall, just under a quarter of Americans said that they believed that Bush will nominate conservatives
and were pleased by that idea, while the same proportion said they found the prospect of a conservative
nominee upsetting. The religious right is particularly pleased at the prospect—nearly half said that they
were happy in their conviction that Bush’s nominee would be right of center. Among all of those who said
they expected a Bush nominee to be conservative, 36% were pleased at the prospect, 34% said it upset
them, and 28% said it makes no difference. It will surprise no one that nearly three quarters of the liberals
in this group were concerned, while the same proportion of the conservatives were pleased.
Survey respondents were reminded of George W. Bush’s past assertion that he would not use a nominee’s
beliefs on abortion as the deciding factor for a judicial selection and then asked if they believe that will be
the case. Only Republicans (77%), conservatives (68%), and those who believe abortion should be made
illegal (64%) said they believed that the president would not use abortion as a nomination litmus test.
Overall, 45% said they believed the president, while 50% said they did not, including nearly three in five
independents, a 55% majority of moderates, and 65% of those who favor legal abortion.
Overall, the country is split over whether nominees to the supreme court should be required to state their
position on abortion before being approved by the senate. Forty-six percent said that such a statement
should be required, while 48% disagreed. While there is some division along the usual partisan lines, the
survey did not find gaping ideological divides. Half of Democrats said that a nominee should be required
to state their position on abortion, while 45% disagreed. Forty-two percent of Republicans would like to
compel such a statement compared to 53% who would not.