Plurality Wants Kavanaugh Confirmed, Almost 1-in-5 Undecided


According to a new survey from Rasmussen Reports, 44 percent of likely voters want the Senate to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. According to the poll, 38 percent said he should not be confirmed and 19 percent were undecided. His early favorable/unfavorable numbers are similar: 41 percent view him favorably, 33 percent do not, and 26 percent are unsure.

Many voters don’t know much about Kavanaugh and the media has just started vetting him, so these numbers will probably change. But, given what we know about partisanship and other recent SCOTUS nominees, these numbers seem like a reasonably estimate of where public opinion is right now.

Specifically, some voters might be using their existing views of Trump to form new views on Kavanaugh.

Rasmussen’s recent polling has shown President Trump with an approval rating of about 46 percent to 47 percent (note that this number is higher than the national average; Rasmussen has a pro-Republican house effect, and they often publish results that are to the right of the polling averages), and 44 percent believe that Kavanaugh should be confirmed. I wouldn’t be surprised if many people who approve of Trump—regardless of whether they’ve learned much about Kavanaugh—trust him on this issue and believe his nominee should be confirmed. Similarly, some Trump disapprovers might assume, based on what they know about Trump, that they’d dislike anyone he nominates.

These heuristics don’t explain everything (nearly everyone has an opinion on Trump and a one-fourth of voters don’t know if they like Kavanaugh), and I haven’t seen Rasmussen’s raw data. But partisanship does make the 44 percent statistic look like a reasonable early estimate.

Kavanaugh’s numbers also make sense in context of other recent nominees.

Rasmussen also reported early numbers for Neil Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Those numbers were better—they were rated favorably by 48 percent, 49 percent and 45 percent, respectively, while Kavanaugh is at 41 percent. But Kavanaugh isn’t an extreme outlier, and Trump’s unpopularity could explain a bit of the (relatively small) gap.

Additionally, a CBS poll taken just days after Trump announced that he would nominate Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court showed that 27 percent of adults wanted the Senate to vote to confirm Gorsuch, 14 percent said they should vote against him and 56 percent were unsure. And a couple weeks after President Obama nominated Elena Kagan to the court, 46 percent said the Senate should confirm her, 32 percent said they shouldn’t, and 22 percent said they had no opinion in a Gallup poll.

In other words, Rasmussen’s initial numbers on Kavanaugh don’t seem outlandish. Voters still don’t know much about Kavanaugh, and partisanship is probably shaping some of these early numbers. But many voters are undecided on him, and it’ll be important to watch how these numbers move as voters learn more.





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