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What the Public Thinks About One Key Issue in Alito’s Nomination

Few actions in Judge Samuel Alito’s career have attracted as much attention in recent days as his dissenting vote to uphold a Pennsylvania law that required spousal notification before an abortion. The law was later overturned by the Supreme Court. But what does the public think?

In 1992, when Gallup asked people whether they favored or opposed a law requiring that the husband of a married woman be notified if she decides to have an abortion, 73 percent said they were in favor. In 1996, 70 percent were in favor, and in 2003, 72 percent were. In each survey, about a quarter were opposed. [IMGCAP(1)]

George Bush and Congressional Elections. No president likes to see numbers like these, from an Oct. 21-23 Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll: 39 percent said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate for Congress who supports President Bush, but 55 percent said they would be more likely to vote for one who opposes him.

The numbers, nearly identical to those from September 1994, are bad enough on their face. But what’s striking is the intensity of opposition revealed in the follow-up question. Of those who said they would be more likely to vote for someone who opposed the president, 47 percent said they felt strongly about it, and just 8 percent said not so strongly.

What Do Hillary and Bush Have in Common? They’re Dividers. A mid-October poll by Marist College shows that partisan divisions about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) are as deep as those about President Bush.

Seventy-four percent of Democrats said they wanted Clinton to run for president in 2008, while 23 percent did not. Republicans’ views were the mirror opposite: 17 percent wanted her to run, but 79 percent did not. And in a late October Pew Research Center poll, only 23 percent of registered Republican voters with an opinion had a favorable impression of her, compared to 86 percent of Democrats who did.

When asked in June by ABC News/Washington Post interviewers whether Bush had done more to unite the country or divide it, 43 percent of respondents said Bush had done more to unite the country, while 55 percent said he had done more to divide it. A similar question asked about Clinton by Gallup in August found 41 percent saying the phrase “would unite and not divide the country” applied to Clinton and 53 percent saying it did not.

A Fair Price for a Gallon of Gas. In September interviewing, AP/Ipsos asked people in different countries about a fair price for a gallon (or liter) of gasoline. The mean price for U.S. respondents was $1.99; for Canadians, $2.72; for the French, $4.08; the Germans, $4.87; Italians, $4.05; Spaniards, $3.32; and the British, $5.16. Australians put the fair price at $2.94.

Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke and Inflation. In an Oct. 24-26 AP/Ipsos poll, 56 percent said history would remember the 18 years of Greenspan’s leadership as a time of prosperity, while 29 percent thought his tenure would mostly be remembered as a time of economic decline.

During his tenure, Greenspan trained his sights on inflation, and Bernanke appears to share the same commitment. On this issue, both men appear to be in tune with long-standing national concerns. In Gallup’s open-ended question about the most important problem facing the country — a question asked since the 1930s — no problem has ever been mentioned by more people than inflation. Several times in the 1970s, more than 70 percent spontaneously mentioned inflation as the country’s top problem. Compare that to the top problem today, Iraq, which was cited by only 21 percent in Gallup’s mid-October poll.

Whither the Environment? In an Aug. 9-16 Harris poll, 12 percent of respondents said they considered themselves active environmentalists, 58 percent said they were sympathetic to environmental concerns, 24 percent said they were neutral and 4 percent said they were unsympathetic. These responses haven’t varied much in the past decade.

Democratic Royalists? When Fox News and OpinionDynamics asked people in an Oct. 25-26 poll whether they would rather sit next to President Bush and first lady Laura Bush or Prince Charles and wife Camilla at this week’s White House dinner, 84 percent of Republicans said they would prefer to sit with the president and Laura, with 9 percent favoring Charles and Camilla. But Democrats, presumably driven by their dislike of the president, preferred Charles and Camilla by 53 percent to 22 percent. Overall, 48 percent preferred the Bushes, while 34 percent the prince and the duchess.

Karlyn Bowman is a resident fellow specializing in public opinion and polls at the American Enterprise Institute.

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