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Initial Reaction: 40% Positive Toward Kagan Nomination

Initial Reaction: 40% Positive Toward Kagan Nomination

PRINCETON, NJ -- A Gallup immediate-reaction poll to President Barack Obama's nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court finds 40% of Americans rating the choice as "excellent" or "good," and 14% rating it as "poor." Overall, Kagan's ratings are similar to those for Samuel Alito and Harriet Miers, but not as positive as those for Sonia Sotomayor and John Roberts.

Generally Speaking, How Would You Rate Obama's Choice of Elena Kagan as a Nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court -- as Excellent, Good, Only Fair, or Poor? (Trend Including Previous Four Supreme Court Nominees Sotomayor, Alito, Miers, and Roberts)

The Gallup poll was conducted May 10, after Obama's announcement of Kagan as his choice to fill the seat of retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. Gallup has conducted immediate-reaction polls to gauge initial public opinion for each of the last five Supreme Court nominees, dating back to George W. Bush's choice of John Roberts in 2005.

Kagan's 40% combined excellent/good ratings are technically the lowest Gallup has measured, but this comparatively lower positive evaluation is tied to the fact that Americans are less likely to express an opinion about her (24%) than they were for the four prior nominees (with an average of 17% "no opinion"). Her "poor" rating of 14% is no worse than those of other recent high-court nominees.

As would be expected for a nominee chosen by a Democratic president, Democrats rate Kagan much more positively than do independents or Republicans. Independents are, however, more positive (35% excellent/good) than negative (10% poor) about the choice, while Republicans are twice as likely to say the choice was poor as to say it was either excellent or good.

Ratings of Elena Kagan Supreme Court Nomination, by Political Party

If confirmed by the Senate, Kagan would give the Supreme Court three female justices for the first time. The poll finds men (39%) and women (40%) equally likely to give the Kagan nomination a positive rating, though men are at the same time more likely than women to give it a "poor" rating.

Ratings of Elena Kagan Supreme Court Nomination, by Gender

By contrast, women's initial reaction to Sotomayor's nomination last year was much more positive than men's (53% to 41%). But men (43%) and women (44%) gave similar excellent or good ratings in 2005 to Bush's choice of Miers, who later withdrew her nomination before a confirmation vote took place.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,004 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 10, 2010. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.

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