Poll: Sotomayor As Well Known as Justice O'Connor

Monday, July 13, 2009 at 12:59 PM

While hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor have just
begun, she is already as well-known as Sandra Day O'Connor, the first
female to serve on the U.S.'s highest court, according to a C-SPAN

Sotomayor, the first Hispanic to be nominated for the Supreme Court, started facing congressional questions today at a confirmation hearing that will be broadcast in full on C-SPAN.

The C-SPAN poll, conducted about a week ago by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, showed that 66 percent of the 1,002 voters surveyed knew that Sotomayor is the Court's first Latina nominee and 43 percent were able to identify her by name.

That's about equal to the number -- 41 percent -- who could cite O'Connor as the first woman on the high court.

A little less than half, 46 percent, surveyed could name a current justice, most knew that a Supreme Court appointment lasts a lifetime and only nine percent knew that the average argument before the court lasts about an hour.

A large majority of those surveyed, 61 percent, say it is time for Supreme Court Oral Arguments to be open to television coverage. The court has never allowed television coverage of hearings with Justice David Souter saying that cameras would be brought in only if they were "going to roll over my dead body."

If confirmed, Sotomayor would replace Souter.

Souter made the remark in 1996 while giving congressional testimony, according to C-SPAN which has gathered any public statements made by Supreme Court justices about the cameras being in the court.

Justice Paul Stevens expressed concern that the public has turned away from the courtroom on several occasions because of lack of space but still said he was concerned about the impact of cameras.

In his 1991 confirmation hearing Justice Clarence Thomas said he had no objection as long the cameras were not obtrusive. "It's good for the American public to see what's going on in there," C-SPAN quotes Thomas as saying.

But in 2006 Thomas said that cameras would change the court proceedings. "And I don't think for the better."

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has consistently said she is not opposed to cameras as long as the coverage is gavel-to-gavel, but also has expressed respect for her colleagues who have been vocal about opposing cameras.