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Despite Partisan Rhetoric, Kagan Relatively Unknown

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With a Judiciary Committee hearing on Kagan set to start, 42 percent are undecided whether Kagan should be confirmed to the Supreme Court.
With a Judiciary Committee hearing on Kagan set to start, 42 percent are undecided whether Kagan should be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

From the Congressional Poll Connection: By Dan Friedman

Lawmakers have spent recent weeks trading shots over Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nomination, but that appears to have had little effect on public opinion and she remains relatively unknown to the public, according to the latest Society for Human Resource Management/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll conducted by the Pew Research Center.

With a Judiciary Committee hearing on Kagan set to start next week, 42 percent do not know or declined to say whether Kagan should be confirmed. That was in line with Americans' views shortly after President Obama nominated her on May 10 -- 46 percent lacked an opinion in a poll conducted May 13-16.

In the latest poll, 33 percent said Kagan should be confirmed, while 25 percent said she should not. In May, 33 percent said she should be confirmed while 21 percent said "no."

The shortage of opinion on Kagan and fairly steady division of views comes despite efforts by both parties to define the nominee.

Led by Senate Minority Leader McConnell, Republicans including Senate Judiciary ranking member Jeff Sessions and Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have cited memorandums from points in Kagan's career to paint her as liberal activist using legal means to advance a political agenda.

McConnell and Grassley each called Kagan "a political lawyer" in the past week.

"Some of her views are quite troubling," McConnell said Sunday on Fox News.

Democrats have offered a coordinated series of floor speeches touting Kagan's credentials. Last week, several female senators noted Kagan would be the fourth woman to serve on the court.

On Tuesday, Judiciary Committee Democrats said Kagan could help offset an increasingly activist court under Chief Justice Roberts, arguing many recent decisions have abandoned precedent to impose conservative views by narrow margins.

"Her broad legal background gives me confidence she understands the appropriate role of the Supreme Court," said Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md.

Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, Majority Whip Durbin and Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., will have a news conference today to tout Kagan.

The Pew survey found that despite GOP efforts to paint Kagan as liberal, Americans are split on her ideology. Twenty-eight percent said they think she is liberal, while 24 percent said she is moderate. Seven percent said they see her as conservative. Another 41 percent could not answer the question.

Kagan's nomination on Tuesday won endorsements from eight former solicitors general, including Republicans Kenneth Starr, Charles Fried and Theodore Olson.

The poll of 1,009 adults who were reached by landline or cell phone was conducted Thursday through Sunday. The margin of error is 4 percentage points for the entire sample.

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