Poll: Most Americans Want Senate to Act on Supreme Court Nominee

WASHINGTON (Tribune Washington Bureau/TNS) -

A majority of Americans believe the Senate should hold hearings and vote on whomever President Barack Obama nominates for the Supreme Court, according to a new poll.

The survey, by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, found that 56 percent said the Senate should hold hearings and vote.

A minority, 38 percent, supported the position taken by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia — that the Senate should not act until after the next president takes office.

Not surprisingly, the poll found a sharp partisan divide. Among people who identified themselves as conservative Republicans, 71 percent said the Senate should wait for a new president. Among self-identified liberal Democrats, 85 percent said the Senate should act on Obama’s nominee.

Independents favored the Democratic side of the argument, 56 percent to 37 percent, the poll found.

The survey also found Americans paying considerably more attention to the high court vacancy than to previous openings on the court.

About seven in 10 Americans said they had heard about the vacancy and nearly six in 10 said the choice of the next justice was important to them. By contrast, when Obama chose Elena Kagan for the high court in 2010, only four in 10 said the choice was important to them.

Republicans and Democrats were about equally likely to see the choice as important. Independents were less likely to do so.

The Pew survey polled 1,002 American adults, Feb. 18-21. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.