With the recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the composition of the Supreme Court has become a key political issue during the latter stages of the 2020 election campaign. President Trump has nominated Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Court, while the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee announced on Monday that it would open a hybrid confirmation hearing on October 12, despite two Republican committee members testing positive for coronavirus in recent days.
The decision of Republican Senate leaders to begin the Supreme Court confirmation hearing next week increases the likelihood that the Supreme Court will no longer have a vacancy by the time of the election on November 3. If it came to it, 42% would trust the Supreme Court to come to a fair decision regarding the outcome of a contested election. A third (33%) would not trust the Supreme Court to come to a fair decision, while 25% don’t know. This result broadly mirrors the outcome in our previous polling.
A clear majority (59%) of likely Donald Trump supporters would trust the Supreme Court to come to a fair decision in the event of a contested election, while only 17% would not trust the court. By contrast, only around a third (32%) of likely Joe Biden voters would trust the Court, while almost half (47%) would not.
Nonetheless, a clear majority (55%) are neither more nor less likely to vote given the opening of a Supreme Court seat vacancy. However, over a third (36%) say they are more likely to vote, and just 4% are less likely to vote.
Among likely Donald Trump voters, 40% say they are more likely to vote due to the Supreme Court vacancy, while 37% of likely Joe Biden supporters also hold this view. Among those who did not vote in 2016, a fifth (20%) say they are now more likely to vote in this cycle due to the vacancy on the Supreme Court. Interestingly, 40% of those who would not trust the Supreme Court to come to a fair decision are more likely to vote due to the vacancy, the same percentage as those who would trust the Supreme Court.
Overall, a plurality (38%) say that the opening of a Supreme Court seat does not make them any more or less likely to vote for a particular candidate. Nevertheless, 26% of voters say the opening makes them more likely to vote for Joe Biden, while less than a fifth (19%) believe it makes them more likely to vote for Donald Trump.
Only 5% of likely Donald Trump voters say the vacancy makes them more likely to vote for the Democratic nominee, while just 4% of likely Joe Biden voters say the opening makes them more likely to vote for the incumbent President. 18% of those who did not vote in 2016 are now more likely to vote for Joe Biden, in comparison to just 9% who are now more likely to vote for Donald Trump.
Overall, a plurality (44%) of respondents consider that Joe Biden would pick the best Justices, while 37% say that Donald Trump would, a finding which broadly mirrors the former Vice President’s lead in overall voting intention.
Nonetheless, a plurality (41%) of Americans support the decision of President Trump to nominate a new Supreme Court Justice before the end of his current term. Only slightly fewer (37%) oppose the decision, while a further 18% neither support nor oppose it. Among likely Joe Biden voters, 10% support the President’s actions and 15% neither support nor oppose it. In contrast, only 2% of likely Donald Trump supporters actively oppose the President’s actions.
President Trump’s decision to nominate Amy Coney Barrett in particular for Supreme Court Justice is supported by the plurality (38%) of the American public. A third (33%) are opposed to the specific nominee, while almost a quarter (23%) neither support nor oppose.
While serving on the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals, Amy Coney Barrett has demonstrated a conservative bent on Second Amendment gun rights, immigration, and abortion. Significantly, 8% of likely Joe Biden voters say they support the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court Justice, while only 2% of likely Donald Trump supporters oppose the nominee. This finding indicates that President Trump’s decision may have garnered a degree of support from more conservative members of the Democratic base.
A slight plurality (37%) of respondents would support the Senate confirming Amy Coney Barrett as Supreme Court Justice before the election in November, while 35% would oppose this move, although this difference falls within the margin of error for this poll. Around a fifth (22%) would neither support nor oppose her confirmation before the election, including a tenth (10%) of likely Joe Biden voters.
The successful confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett would shift the Supreme Court to a solid 6-3 conservative majority. In this context, some Democrats have expressed support for expanding the size of the Supreme Court (“packing the court”) in order to re-balance the Court towards a more liberal slant. In last week’s debate, Joe Biden refused to say whether he supports “packing the court.”
At this stage, a slim plurality (31%) are opposed to the idea of adding more Justices to the Supreme Court, while 30% neither support nor oppose, another difference which falls within the margin of error of this poll). Just 28% of Americans support the idea.
There is only some partisan differentiation evident in responses to this question. 30% of likely Joe Biden voters express support for “packing the court,” compared to 28% of likely Donald Trump voters. Yet, 26% of those who say they will vote for the Democratic nominee are actively opposed to the expansion of the Supreme Court, while a higher 41% of those who will vote to re-elect President Trump oppose the concept. This breakdown is suggestive of how little the Supreme Court has fared as a key issue in this election.
Ultimately, a plurality would trust the Supreme Court to come to a fair decision in the outcome of a contested election, but Joe Biden’s likely voters are significantly less likely to do so. Although the majority of respondents say that the vacancy on the Court has not impacted their likelihood to vote, a substantial minority say they are more likely to vote as a result. Around a quarter of voters are more likely to vote for Joe Biden due to the opening of a Supreme Court seat, in comparison to around a fifth of voters who say the vacancy makes them more likely to vote for the President’s re-election. However, a plurality of respondents supports the President’s decision to nominate a Justice, and in particular to nominate Amy Coney Barrett. While Americans are strongly divided on whether the Senate should confirm Amy Coney Barrett prior to the election, support for the concept of “packing the court” remains limited among voters of both major parties.
To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.