POLITICS
09/26/2018 08:04 pm ET

Brett Kavanaugh's Poll Numbers Are Firmly In The Red

And voters on both sides of the aisle say they're paying attention to the fight over Supreme Court appointments.

With Brett Kavanaugh set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, the Supreme Court nominee’s numbers are underwater, according to a new round of polling.

Surveys out this week from YouGov for HuffPost and for The Economist, from Morning Consult for Politico, and from Marist for PBS NewsHour and NPR all find public opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination outstripping support for it by between 3 to 6 points, joining previous polls that also found him earning negative ratings.

For a Supreme Court nominee, that’s deeply unusual ― as NBC noted last week, it’s the first time dating back to 2005 that a judge hasn’t been favored for confirmation to the high court. Determining exactly how much of that unpopularity is owed to the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh remains somewhat tricky. Certainly, they haven’t helped him.

But Kavanaugh was already less popular than other recent nominees, including President Donald Trump’s previous pick, Neil Gorsuch. And even absent any sort of scandal, Supreme Court nominees tend to see their numbers drop throughout the confirmation process. Added to that, public opinion polls naturally fluctuate from week to week, making it hard to distinguish sampling variation from a small-but-real shift in opinion.

Initial HuffPost/YouGov polling found virtually no change in Kavanaugh’s numbers after he was publicly accused of sexual assault; Gallup, which was conducting a poll while the story broke, also concluded that “opposition to Kavanaugh was already increasing before the allegations were publicized, and the allegations appeared to have had no immediately negative effect on public opinion.”  

But taken together, the latest set of polls paint a clearly negative and likely somewhat worsening picture:

HuffPost

All the most recent surveys find considerable divides along partisan lines, with Republicans broadly supporting Kavanaugh and Democrats widely condemning him. The divide between Trump voters and those who voted for Hillary Clinton is even more pronounced.

“Republicans, both men and women, strongly favor confirmation, while Democrats of both sexes overwhelmingly oppose it,” YouGov’s Kathy Frankovic noted in a release about the Economist results. “But the gender gap among independents is particularly striking: currently, independent men favor the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh 43% to 38%; independent women oppose it 38% to 28%. Two weeks ago, independents were closely divided.”

YouGov’s polling for HuffPost, similarly, finds male and female Republicans about equally likely to favor Kavanaugh’s confirmation, with independent men more than twice as likely as independent women to do so. 

The gender gap among independents is particularly striking ... Two weeks ago, independents were closely divided. YouGov’s Kathy Frankovic

In the Marist/PBS Newshour/NPR survey, Republican men and women are about equally likely to believe Kavanaugh over Blasey (61 percent and 57 percent, respectively, say they side with Kavanaugh), while Democratic men and women both say they believe Blasey (54 and 56 percent, respectively). Overall, 56 percent of Democrats say they believe Blasey, 8 percent say they believe Kavanaugh, and 37 say they’re unsure.

The downward shift in Kavanaugh’s numbers on the Politico/Morning Consult poll, however, was due in no small part to a drop in support among Republican women, the pollsters said. Republican women were 19 points less likely than Republican men in their most recent survey to favor Kavanaugh’s confirmation, although the percentages of each who opposed it were roughly similar. Republican women were more likely than Republican men to say they were unsure about the confirmation.

Meanwhile, in a Pew Research poll released Wednesday, Supreme Court appointments joined health care and the economy, at least for the time being, among the pantheon of top midterm issues. Eighty-one percent of Democratic voters and 72 percent of GOP voters say court appointments will be very important to their vote.

Republicans were about as likely to call the Supreme Court a top issue now as they were in 2016, the survey found, while the percentage of Democrats ranking it that highly rose 19 points.

Pew Research
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