Support for Alito's confirmation grew after widely televised confirmation hearings, the poll found. Before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, held January 11-13, 49 percent of respondents backed his nomination. In the poll released Monday, 54 percent expressed support.That says a lot about the quality of the Democratic Senators' presentation at the hearings. They were not able to gain one percentage point of opposition. You'd think that many people would, without giving it much thought, support a President's nominee initially. The 49 percent figure going into the hearing may show that. But the hearings should have eroded that high level of support at least a bit, and surely, some of the 21 percent undecided should have taken the negative position. Yet the hearings won Alito 5 additional points.
The percentage of people who opposed his confirmation remained unchanged [at 30 percent] after the hearings, Monday's poll found.
Clearly, the Democrats' strategy was poor. But exactly why was it so poor? I've said before that I think it's a mistake to portray judicial decisionmaking as a political enterprise, which is what they did, leaving Alito to prevail by doggedly explaining legal doctrine in response to every attempt at an attack. I think people want the Court to decide cases based on the law and want to believe a judge can do that. If so, the Democrats' attack on Alito would look ugly and offensive.
But it may be that a lot of people really do think the Court is political. If so, the Democrats have an entirely other reason to worry. It would mean that people want the Court to take the political positions the Democratic Senators assumed we would be outraged by. It's hard to say which issues would be most influential, but I note that the Senators tried very hard to frighten Americans about strong presidential power.
The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee said last week he believed Alito would fail to check what he views as the president's inappropriate expansion of executive power.Perhaps most Americans disagree.
"I'm not going to lend my support to an effort by this president to move the Supreme Court and the law radically to the right and to remove the final check within our democracy," Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont said Thursday.