NEW YORK – A new FOX News poll finds that if Americans were voting on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers (search), slightly more say they would vote for her than against her, though she receives far less support than Chief Justice John Roberts (search) did at the time of his nomination. Over a third think Miers is qualified to serve, while about two-thirds thought this of Roberts. More than twice as many Americans think people are jumping to conclusions rather than giving Miers fair consideration.
A 37 percent plurality of Americans say they would vote to confirm Miers to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (search), 32 percent say they would vote against her and 31 percent are unsure. For comparison, in polling conducted the week after Roberts' nomination, 51 percent said they would vote for him and 19 percent against (30 percent unsure).
Among Republicans, 57 percent say they would vote for Miers, down 17 percentage points from the 74 percent that said they would vote for Roberts (July 26-27). Support for Miers among Democrats is 12 points less than it was for Roberts. It should be noted there is no gender gap on support for Miers as both men and women are equally likely to say they would confirm her.
Overall, 37 percent say they think Miers is qualified — significantly below the 65 percent that Roberts received in July. Partisanship plays a role here, as 56 percent of Republicans think she is qualified, while only 20 percent of Democrats agree.
"It is fairly clear from the high 'undecideds' on many questions that most people have little knowledge about Miers or the Supreme Court," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "They’re taking their cues from the political and media elites and it is the immediate skepticism of many of those elites that has damaged support for Miers. Furthermore, the fact that some of those skeptics have been Republican and conservative has hurt Miers even more. With the polarized politics we have today a Democrat criticizing a Republican or vice versa has relatively little impact, but a Republican criticizing a Republican is unexpected and credible to many people."
By a 55 percent to 18 percent margin, people think it is more important for the president to select a nominee he trusts rather than a nominee who will please his supporters.
Just over half of Americans (51 percent) think most people are jumping to conclusions about the Miers nomination and about one in five think she is receiving fair consideration (19 percent).
Miers' lack of judicial experience is a problem with many Americans. A 55-percent majority thinks all Supreme Court justices should have prior judicial experience, compared to about a third (35 percent) that think it is a good idea for some justices not to have previous experience as a judge.
Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to say prior judicial experience matters. Over two-thirds of Democrats (69 percent) think all Supreme Court justices should have prior experience as a judge, while 44 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of independents think so. Slim pluralities of Republicans (47 percent) and independents (45 percent) think it is a "good idea" if some justices on the high court do not have prior judicial experience.
Even so, few (13 percent) say they have heard anything about Miers that would disqualify her from serving on the Supreme Court.
What do people think will happen with the Miers' nomination in the Senate? The public is clearly less confident about her nomination than they were about Roberts’. About half (48 percent) think the Senate will confirm her, 19 percent disagree and 33 percent are unsure. When the same question was first asked about the John Roberts’ nomination, 70 percent said they thought the Senate would confirm him, only 7 percent thought he would be voted down and 23 percent were not sure (July 26-27).
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on October 11-12.
• PDF: Click here for full poll results.