Do Americans Care About Appointing a Female Supreme Court Justice?

What Women Really Think
May 13 2009 10:30 AM

Do Americans Care About Appointing a Female Supreme Court Justice?

There’s an interesting Gallup poll out today about whether Americans feel the next Supreme Court nominee should be a woman. The media has reported on expectations that Obama will nominate a woman to fill Souter’s seat; but according to Gallup, 64 percent of Americans "say it doesn't matter to them whether Obama appoints a woman." Today, of course, the Supreme Court includes only one female justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer in February. What’s interesting about this poll is the implicit questions it raises about how Americans view the role of Supreme Court Justices-namely, that diversity of gender is less important than diversity of point of view about issues that relate to women. Yesterday on NPR, Dahlia Lithwick and Hanna Rosin were debating this very question : Whether justices have to be representative by ethnicity and gender in of themselves, or whether it was more important that they represent a diversity of positions and views in their approach. Apparently, right now at least, Americans aren’t too concerned about women actually sitting on the bench: According to Gallup, "Just 6 percent of Americans say it is 'essential’ that Obama appoint a woman, while another 26 percent say it would be 'a good idea, but not essential.’"

Meghan O'Rourke is Slate's culture critic and an advisory editor. She was previously an editor at The New Yorker. The Long Goodbye, a memoir about her mother's death, is now out in paperback.