Poll: Sotomayor pick gains public approval

Chris Rizo May 28, 2009, 12:00pm

Sonia Sotomayor

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-Most Americans say they believe U.S. President Barack Obama made a good pick in nominating federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, a poll indicates.

Obama nominated Sotomayor, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, to replace Associate Justice David Souter, who is retiring from the high court at the end of the term this summer.

The Gallup poll found that 19 percent of respondents said the 54-year-old Yale Law graduate was an "excellent" choice, 28 percent said she was a "good" choice, while 20 percent said she was a "fair" pick, and 13 percent said she was a "poor" one.

Gallup said Democrats were more favorable than Republicans to Sotomayor, Obama's first Supreme Court pick. On gender lines, 54 percent of women gave high marks to Sotomayor, while only 42 percent of men did so.

"Much of the discussion about Obama's nomination decision has focused on his clear intent to appoint a woman, given the fact that there is currently only one female justice on the Court. Additionally, it has been widely noted that Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic on the court if she is confirmed by the Senate," Gallup said in its analysis.

"Still, it appears Americans believe that Sotomayor's intellectual credentials and experience were more important to Obama in his decision to nominate her than were her demographic characteristics."

The poll, conducted Tuesday night, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Sotomayor was nominated in 1991 by Republican President George H. W. Bush to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In 1997, Democratic President Bill Clinton nominated her to the appeals court post she now holds.

Gallup said it conducted similar reaction polls immediately after former President George W. Bush's nominations of John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court in 2005.

In all instances, the reactions were more positive than negative. The net positive rating was highest for Roberts and Sotomayor, and lowest for Alito and Miers, Gallup said.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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