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Elena Kagan? Elena Kagan. Most Americans can't say they know the name this morning

June 28, 2010 |  7:04 am

Democrat preesident Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan

This is for the 81% of Americans who don't know who Elena Kagan is.

A new C-SPAN poll of 1,512 voters finds far more ignorance about this year's Barack Obama choice for the Supreme Court than last year's of Sonia Sotomayor. Kagan's Senate confirmation hearings start later today before the Judiciary Committee and national TV cameras.

Only 19% could name Kagan, who was Obama's solicitor general, less than half the 43% who could name Sotomayor at the start of her confirmation.

From a sales point of view, voter ignorance doesn't much matter on this issue, unless you're a senator. And given the high partisanship of some recent court confirmation hearings, not being widely known could be a good thing for the Democratic White House. While Kagan's been on Capitol Hill all chatty with key senators in recent weeks, most of the country has been focused on the gulf coast.

Sixty-four percent in the C-SPAN poll don't care what a nominee's gender is. However, 63% think the court has quite enough Ivy League law school graduates -- Harvard, Yale, Columbia -- and did we mention the president's law school Harvard? Those three schools produced all eight incumbent justices plus Kagan, its one-time dean.

Other than that the court's educational mix is just super.

With the national approval of Congress in the dumpster and the president's numbers sliding still, 48% told C-SPAN they think the court is the government branch best serving the public interest.

Having said that in this the Year of the Grumpy Voter, only 29% think the court is doing an excellent or good job.

Slightly more than one-third (38%) support Kagan's nomination; almost one third (30%) do not. The other third don't care enough to have an opinion. Or maybe they're trying to find coverage of the ongoing gulf oil spill that's virtually vanished from the media coverage fashion world.

About the same proportion of voters as in recent years -- two-thirds -- supports televised oral arguments in the court, according to the C-SPAN poll.

And you'll never guess which public affairs cable networks named C-SPAN would be eager to televise said arguments. (Speaking of which, C-SPAN3 will carry the Senate hearings live starting this afternoon.)

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

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