Poll: Slim majority opposes Trump filling Supreme Court vacancy before election

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A slim majority of voters nationwide oppose efforts by the White House and Senate Republicans to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court by election day, a new poll out Monday shows.

Though the electorate is closely split on the general question of whether the Senate should consider a Supreme Court nominee towards the end of a president’s term, with a small plurality opposed, the new Monmouth University survey found that when it comes to this specific vacancy, 51 percent of voters disapprove of efforts to fill it before Nov. 3 compared to 46 percent who support the move.

Still, a majority — 53 percent — of those polled agree that the Senate should hold confirmation hearings for Trump’s nominee. The president nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Saturday, by which point the poll was already underway.

The survey reveals a more divided electorate than in March of 2016, when Senate Republicans refused to hold a confirmation hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, then-President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the seat vacated by Justice Antonin Scalia. Republicans at the time cited the closeness of the election — Scalia died nine months before the 2016 election — as the reason for their refusal to hold a confirmation hearing for Garland.

In 2016, a Monmouth poll found that nearly two-thirds of voters — 73 percent — supported holding a Senate hearing for Garland, compared to 23 percent who opposed doing so.

And while 49 percent of voters now say the Senate should not consider a Supreme Court nominee toward the end of a president’s term, compared to 47 percent who say the chamber should, nearly 6 in 10 voters backed the election year consideration of a potential justice back in 2016.

The Monmouth survey discovered a clear partisan split on the issue just a little over a month out from the election, for which voters in some states have already begun casting their ballots.

Republican voters were slightly more likely to support Trump filling the vacancy left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Sept. 18, than they were to support more generally a president filling a Supreme Court vacancy toward the end of his or her term. Nine in 10 Republican voters support the former, compared with 83 percent who supported the latter.

Democratic voters, meanwhile, are opposed to such scenarios at nearly identical levels while independents are evenly split.

As what is sure to be a contentious confirmation process kicks into gear in the coming weeks, the Monmouth poll found that Biden has maintained his lead over Trump nationally, though the race has tightened since earlier this month.

Half of registered voters surveyed support Biden, the poll found, while 44 percent prefer Trump, smaller than Biden’s 51-42 percent lead over the president in early September.

The Monmouth University poll was conducted by phone between Sept. 24-27 among 809 registered voters nationwide. Results from the survey have a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.5 percentage points.

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