Plurality Favors Centrist Court Nominee; Republicans Uncertain on Rove Resignation

  • July 21, 2005
  • By Andrew Kohut

Only about half of the American public is paying close attention to news reports that White House aide Karl Rove may have leaked classified information about a CIA agent. But 39% of the public – and a solid majority of those closely following the reports (58%) – believe that Rove should resign his position.

This national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted July 13-17, 2005, among 1,502 Americans, finds that more Americans favor a nominee for the Supreme Court who will keep the court as it is now (40%), rather than someone who will make the court more conservative (27%), or more liberal (24%). On balance, there is greater concern that Bush will select someone who will make the court too conservative, rather than not conservative enough (by 31% to 19%).

Nearly half of the public (47%) says the choice of a new justice to replace Sandra Day O'Connor is very important to them personally, with Democrats, independents, and Republicans about equally likely to feel this way. The public is divided over the question of whether the upcoming nomination is more controversial than appointments in the past: 44% say it is, while 44% say the level of controversy is about the same and 5% say it's less controversial. Among those seeing greater controversy now, the blame for fueling the dispute is divided equally between Democrats (39%) and Republicans (37%).

There is a partisan cast to views on whether Rove should step down, but Republican support for the influential White House aide has been tepid. As many Republicans declined to offer an opinion (42%) as say Rove should not step down (39%). However, public opinion is still forming on this matter. Nearly half of all Americans (45%) declined to offer an opinion on whether Rove is guilty of a serious offense; 32% feel he is guilty of a serious offense while 23% say he is not.