NEW YORK – Majorities of Americans think U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts (search) is qualified to serve as chief justice and that the Senate will confirm him, according to a new FOX News poll.
About two-thirds of voters (62 percent) think Roberts is qualified to serve as chief justice, including 78 percent of Republicans, 52 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents. Overall, few think Roberts is unqualified to serve (14 percent), while 24 percent of Americans are unsure.
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on September 13-14, during the time the Senate confirmation hearings were being held. The Senate hearings began with opening statements on Monday, September 12, and questioning of Roberts started on Tuesday. The committee vote is expected next week.
The poll shows there is widespread belief the Senate will vote to confirm Roberts: 75 percent think so now, up from 70 percent in polling conducted earlier this summer (July 26-27).
President George W. Bush originally nominated Roberts in July to replace retiring Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (search). At that time, 48 percent of Americans approved and 17 percent disapprove of the Roberts' nomination, with a third unsure (34 percent).
Last week, after the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist (search), the president chose Roberts to succeed Rehnquist instead of O'Connor, who has said she will stay on the court until her successor is named. In this week’s poll, 51 percent say they approve of Roberts' nomination to be chief justice, 21 percent disapprove and 27 percent are unsure.
There are predictable partisan differences on Roberts’ nomination: 77 percent of Republicans approve, but that drops to 46 percent among independents and 30 percent of Democrats. In fact, a 37-percent plurality of Democrats disapproves.
"Given the high level of partisanship we see on most issues these days, these numbers for Roberts are actually not that bad," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "He has been nimble enough answering, or not answering, questions that he hasn’t stirred the all-or-nothing partisanship that we see on something like the president’s ratings."
A majority of men (56 percent) approve of Roberts' nomination, compared to just under half of women (47 percent).
When asked about Roberts' views, more than twice as many voters say his views are in line with "mainstream America" as disagree (49 percent to 22 percent), although more than a quarter (29 percent) were unable to venture an opinion.