WASHINGTON — Just over half of all Americans — and a solid majority of women — want to know John Roberts' position on abortion before the Senate votes on whether to elevate him to the Supreme Court.
Most people don't yet know enough about Roberts to form an opinion on him, but among those who do, most view him favorably, an AP-Ipsos poll also found.
Roberts, 50, an appeals court judge and former Justice Department official, was chosen by President Bush on Tuesday to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Abortion is sure to come up at his Senate confirmation hearings, and the survey found 52 percent believe he should give his position on the matter before lawmakers vote on him, while 42 percent said he should not. Women were more inclined to want to know his position — 60 percent — while only 43 percent of men felt similarly.
"It's such an important thing; abortion is a woman's right," said Denise Connett of Bakersfield, Calif. "What she does with her body is her right and nobody has the right to take that away from her."
Dolores Runyea, a semiretired resident of Kalispell, Mont., said she wants to know Roberts' stance because she opposes abortion.
"It would be very important to me for him to state his position on abortion," Runyea said. "As far as I'm concerned, that's killing a baby. People who are going to be in those positions should be very forthright."
Democrats more interested in Roberts' abortion view
Most Democrats, 60 percent, were interested in hearing Roberts' position on abortion, while a majority of Republicans, 54 percent, said he should not have to disclose his views.
While deputy solicitor general in 1990, Roberts helped write a legal brief that said the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion was "wrongfully decided and should be overruled." However, as a government lawyer he was promoting established Bush administration policy; it's unclear what his personal beliefs are.
When Roberts was asked about abortion during the 2003 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination to the federal bench, he said, "Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land."
Most of those surveyed — 59 percent — said they haven't heard enough about Roberts to form an opinion about him, while 25 percent said they viewed him favorably and 14 percent unfavorably.
Overall, people are inclined at this point to favor confirmation, 47 percent to 24 percent.
Peggy Miller, a registered nurse from Castle Rock, Colo., said Roberts seems "very smart and down to earth — so far."
"But they always manage to dig up something," said Miller, who leans Republican. "I'm waiting to see what comes crawling out."
More men than women favor Roberts' confirmation
Men are more likely than women to favor confirmation and Republicans more likely than Democrats and independents to feel that way. Democrats were about evenly divided on Roberts' confirmation, with roughly a third favoring confirmation, a third opposing and a third who haven't decided.
"Last night I didn't lean toward confirmation," Mike Farrell, a retired political independent living in Venice, Fla., said Wednesday evening. "I felt more positive about him when I read the articles in the paper and looked up some things on the Internet."
The poll of 752 adults was conducted Tuesday and Wednesday by Ipsos, an international polling firm, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
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