January 05, 2006

Polling the Impossible

There are several reasons not to trust the Harris poll on the Alito nomination (like the fact that other polls conducted at the same time shows much greater support for the Alito nomination), but the perhaps the best is that one of the two questions asked is based on a COMPLETE FALLACY.

The poll asks adult Americans, “If you thought that Judge Alito, if confirmed, would vote to make abortions illegal, would you favor or oppose his confirmation?”

Of course, Judge Alito would NOT vote to make abortions illegal as a Supreme Court justice, because that’s NOT WHAT THE SUPREME COURT DOES. Even if the Court overturned Roe and threw it the jurisprudential waste basket with Plessy and Lochner, that would not outlaw abortions nationwide. Instead, democratically elected state legislatures would decide what restrictions, if any, there would be on abortions in each individual state (i.e. the way things were before Roe corrupted our jurisprudence and our politics).

It is amazing - and depressing - to me how many people still think that overturning Roe would instantly make abortion illegal. This ignorance is aided and abetted by the media, who couch any and all judicial decisions in a results-oriented manner. Senator John Cornyn has an excellent article on NRO today which talks about the media’s role in the way judges are perceived by the public and it’s a must-read.

Furthermore, left-wing groups like PFAW and AFJ who put out propaganda like their scurrilous “reports” on Judge Alito’s record don’t exactly help the situation either. Their rhetoric emphasizes which “side” judges rule for or whether the judge is pro-minority, pro-woman, pro-environment, etc. This reduces the judicial process to, in Senator Cornyn’s words, “little more than reading the caption of the case and deciding which party merits greater sympathy.”

Until more people understand the true nature of the role that judges play in our democracy we will not be able to have an intelligent discussion about the real issues over the next few weeks.

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