Demonstrators congregated in Senate office buildings Thursday to protest Republicans’ handling of the sexual assault accusation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. (Sept. 20)
WASHINGTON – More Americans oppose than support the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, a new USA TODAY/Ipsos Public Affairs Poll finds, an unprecedented level of disapproval for a nominee to the nation’s high court.
Amid allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh, those surveyed say by 40 percent to 31 percent that the Senate shouldn’t vote to approve his nomination, the first time a plurality of Americans have opposed a Supreme Court nominee since polling on the issue began. Nonetheless, they also are inclined to believe he will, in the end, be confirmed: Just 11 percent predict he won’t; 45 percent say he will.
The findings underscore the serious political stakes – and the potential for blowback in the midterm elections now little more than six weeks away.
Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Kavanaugh of attempted rape when they were high school students in suburban Maryland, said Thursday she would be willing to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee, although not on Monday, when the panel has proposed a hearing. Kavanaugh has accepted the committee’s invitation for Monday, saying he “categorically and unequivocally” denies the assault.
Beyond a fierce partisan divide, the survey found a definite gender gap: Women by double digits believe Ford’s accusations, 35 percent to 21 percent. Men by nine percentage points believe Kavanaugh’s denials, 37 percent to 28 percent.
Those views are reflected in the question over whether he should be confirmed. Women oppose him by 20 points, 43 percent to 23 percent; men support him by four points, 40 percent to 36 percent.
The online poll of about 1,008 adults, which has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 points, was taken Wednesday and Thursday.
“With the battle over the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court being charged by sexual assault accusations and at the almost one-year anniversary of the start of #MeToo, you’d think that America would be split by gender on this,” said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos. “And we are, but our new poll shows that more than gender, party is the main driver of people’s point of view about this fight, another sign of our highly tribal times.”
Just 9 percent of Democrats support Kavanaugh’s confirmation, compared with 70 percent of Republicans. Feelings are intense on both sides: 50 percent of Democrats “strongly” oppose him; 49 percent of Republicans “strongly” support him. But he has lost the support of independents, who now oppose him by close to 2-1, 43 percent to 24 percent.
The findings are consistent with an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll taken earlier in the week, Sunday through Wednesday, which showed 38 percent opposing Kavanaugh’s confirmation, 34 percent supporting it. That was a reversal of the modest level of net support he held in that survey in July and August.
Never before has a Supreme Court nominee faced more opposition than support in national polls. Even Harriet Myers – whose beleaguered nomination eventually was withdrawn by President George W. Bush – maintained a net level of support when she was nominated for the Supreme Court in 2005.
In the USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll, a significant portion of Americans don’t yet have an opinion. Nearly 1 in 4 say they are following the events around the confirmation “not very closely” or “not at all.” Nearly 3 in 10 say they don’t know if Kavanaugh should be confirmed. Most significantly, 40 percent say they don’t know whether to believe the allegations against him.
That means the Senate hearings, and the chance to hear Kavanaugh and Ford speak, could have a huge impact on public opinion. “Senators can still shape this debate,” Young said.
If Senate Republicans push through the nomination, those surveyed predict significant political repercussions. By a double-digit margin, 47 percent to 26 percent, they think it will hurt the GOP’s chances of holding their majority in the Senate in November. By 43 percent to 31 percent, they say it will hurt President Donald Trump.
And by a slightly wider margin, 42 percent to 27 percent, they predict it will hurt the #MeToo movement, too.
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