Despite being a non-partisan institution, the Supreme Court has become increasingly politicized in the United States in recent years, particularly due to the political nature of how Justices are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. As a result, the composition of the Supreme Court is one of the indirect impacts of any US Presidential Election, as whoever is elected President gains the right and responsibility to nominate individuals to fill any vacancies that might arise in the Supreme Court.
Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ latest nationwide polling found that a strong plurality (46%) believe that Joe Biden is the candidate most likely to pick the best Supreme Court Justices, compared to 36% who think Trump would nominate a better selection of judges.
Pluralities or majorities of respondents from every age group (other than those aged 65 or above) agreed that Biden would be the candidate who would pick the best Supreme Court Justices. Among those aged 65 and above, 43% think Trump would pick the best judges to nominate, and 42% think that Biden would—a difference that falls within the margin of error of the poll. Interestingly, 7% of those who say they will vote for Trump in November think that Biden would pick the best Supreme Court Justices, compared to 5% of likely Biden voters who think the incumbent President would make a better selection if elected for a second term.
In 2000, the Supreme Court concluded a month-long post-election battle in Bush vs Gore. Although the decision to declare George W. Bush as the next President was decided 5-4 along conservative versus liberal lines, the Supreme Court’s legitimacy was largely not questioned by the US public. While 5 members of the current court lean towards conservative positions, Chief Justice Roberts has demonstrated a willingness to vote with liberal Justices on certain issues. Twenty years after the Bush v Gore decision, a strong plurality (45%) would trust the Supreme Court to come to a fair decision regarding the outcome of a contested election, while fewer than a third (31%) would not trust the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, around a quarter (24%) say they do not know.
According to our poll, trust in the Supreme Court’s decision-making processes following a contested election would not vary depending on political allegiance. Around half (49%) of those likely to vote for Trump in November say they would trust the Supreme Court to make a fair decision about the outcome of the election, while 46% of likely Biden supporters expressed the same view. However, given the impending debate around mail-in voting and whether it could lend itself to electoral fraud, it is possible that trust in the Supreme Court could acquire a partisan bias in the coming months. For now, however, the plurality of the public still has faith.