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New Opinion Poll Shows Most Americans Support Sotomayor

A new national opinion poll by the independent Quinnipiac University indicates that a majority of Americans approve of President Barack Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. The poll finds that voters' attitudes about Sotomayor match their feelings about President Obama.

Peter Brown is the Assistant Director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. He said since Judge Sotomayor was nominated for the high court more than a week ago, her support among American voters has remained strong, despite criticism by some Republicans.

"Judge Sotomayor is weathering the storm quite nicely," said Peter Brown. "The Quinnipiac Poll shows a 55 percent approval rating."

The poll shows that only 25 percent of those surveyed disapprove of Sotomayor's nomination, which must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The survey of more than 3,000 American voters was released Thursday.

If confirmed, the 54-year-old Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic and only the third woman on the U.S. Supreme Court. She has very strong approval rates among African Americans, Jews and women, as Peter Brown explains.

"She is doing very, very well among core Democratic groups," he said. "Among self-identified Democrats, there are only a handful, a percent, who do not support the nomination. Republicans as a group are opposed to the nomination, but independents favor the nomination, roughly by a two to one margin."

Judge Sotomayor has come under criticism from some Republican talk show hosts and leaders outside of Congress for a remark she made in 2001 that a "wise Latina judge" might make better rulings than a white man without the same life experiences. Some, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, called the remark "racist." Gingrich has now taken back his comment, saying on his website that the word "racist" should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person.

Senate Republicans have been more cautious, saying they want to have a thorough debate on her rulings during her 17 years as a judge.

Peter Brown said the strong poll numbers for Sotomayor reflect continuing strong support for President Obama, who remains at 59 percent approval in the latest Quinnipiac poll, with 31 percent disapproving.

"His numbers have been very, very solid over the first four months," said Brown. "He started off, you know, with the country wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt and that is still the situation. He is very strong."

Sotomayor has been visiting senators on Capitol Hill this week, with Democrats calling for Senate confirmation hearings next month and a confirmation vote before the Senate takes its August recess. Republicans want to hold off on the hearings until September. There is little doubt that Judge Sotomayor will be confirmed by the Democratic Party-controlled Senate.

On Thursday, the White House delivered a large portfolio of Sotomayor's writings, speeches and rulings to Capitol Hill in response to a Judiciary Committee questionnaire.