October 17, 2005

Reaction to Harriet Miers’ Nomination: Less Support for Miers than for Roberts

Nearly two weeks after the announcement of the selection of Harriet Miers to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, controversy continues to surround the nomination. Recent polling, conducted October 6-10, 2005, by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press indicates that much of the public remains undecided about whether or not to support the Miers appointment. Even evangelical Christians, who typically support President Bush, are lukewarm in their response to the Miers nomination.

Overall, one-in-three Americans (33%) say that the Senate should confirm Miers to the Supreme Court and 27% say that she should not be confirmed. A plurality (40%) expresses no opinion on this question. White evangelicals are more supportive of Miers’ nomination than are non-evangelical Protestants, white Catholics or seculars. But almost as many evangelicals (41%) are unsure of whether or not Miers should be confirmed as express support for her nomination (43%).

There is less public support for Miers’ confirmation than there was for the confirmation of John Roberts as Chief Justice earlier this year. In polling conducted in mid-September, just prior to Senate hearings on the Roberts nomination, the Pew Research Center found that 46% of Americans said that Roberts should be confirmed by the Senate, substantially higher than the 33% who currently support the confirmation of Miers. Only about one-in-five (21%) opposed the confirmation of Roberts, compared with 27% who express opposition to the Miers nomination. This pattern holds across religious groups. Among evangelicals, for instance, a substantial majority (59%) supported the confirmation of Roberts, while fewer than half (43%) currently express support for Miers.

Much of the controversy over the Miers nomination has centered on Miers’ judicial experience, as opposed to her ideology or judicial philosophy. A majority of the public (56%) says they don’t worry about Miers’ ideology at all. Fewer than one-in-five Americans (18%) say they worry that she will make the court too conservative, and even fewer (8%) worry that Miers will make the court not conservative enough. Even among evangelicals, who tend to be politically conservative, only 13% say they worry that Miers will make the court not conservative enough.

Polling also indicates that the public is largely unaffected by Miers’ personal religious beliefs. A large majority (61%) say that the fact that Miers is an evangelical Christian has no effect on their feelings about her. Only one-in-five (20%) say that Miers’ Christianity makes them feel more favorably toward her, and even fewer (14%) say they feel less favorably about her because she is an evangelical. Not surprisingly, evangelicals, much more than other groups, say that Miers’ evangelicalism makes them feel more favorably toward her. But even among this group, nearly as many (44%) say that Miers’ religion has no effect on their views as say her religion makes them feel more favorably toward her (49%).