By Richard S. Dunham A continuing drumbeat of conservative criticism has increased opposition to Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers among grassroots Republicans, according to the most recent national polls, but President Bush's choice for the high court still maintains the loyalty of the vast majority of GOP loyalists and right-leaning voters. At the same time, the Miers revolt from the Right -- decried by some White House loyalists as "sexist" -- has modestly boosted support for the Dallas attorney on the Left.
An Oct. 13-16 Gallup Poll found that 21% of conservatives and 16% of Republicans want to scuttle Miers' nomination, while 61% of conservatives and 73% of Republicans are sticking with the President's selection. A week earlier, an Oct. 6-10 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reported that just 9% of conservative Republicans opposed Miers, while 54% favored her confirmation. An Oct. 11-12 Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll found conservatives backing Miers, 49% to 18%, with a sizable undecided bloc. Republicans favored the nomination, 57% to 14%.
WOMAN OF MYSTERY. Although the questions and the demographic groups analyzed by the polls weren't identical, it appears that the virulent criticism of Miers from conservative opinion leaders, ranging from radio host Rush Limbaugh to blogger Michelle Malkin, has taken a slight toll on the President's White House counsel (see BW Online, 10/17/05, "Miers: The Sound, the Fury, the Yawns").
Still, Bush can be heartened by the fact that support for her on the Right has also grown, as Americans make up their minds about the previously obscure lawyer.
Among liberals and Democrats, Miers' minimal support levels have actually inched up. In the Pew survey released a week ago, just 16% of liberal Democrats said they wanted her on the high court. But in the Fox/Opinion Dynamics Poll conducted several days later, her liberal backing was at 22%. And in the Gallup Poll released Oct. 18, support among those who called themselves liberals reached 28%. So the thunder on the Right may have had the perverse effect of increasing sympathy for the anti-abortion advocate and evangelical Christian among Left-leaning voters.
The bad news for Bush: 26% of conservatives and 18% of Republicans would like the President to withdraw her nomination, according to Gallup. With his job-approval ratings at a record low -- 39% in the same Gallup Poll -- Bush would prefer a unified front from his base. But the White House can take solace from the fact that an overwhelming majority of Republicans agree with its talking points that Miers is qualified to hold the job and that foes have jumped to conclusions without knowing all the facts.
Dunham is BusinessWeek's Washington Outlook editor