Voters Split on Filling Supreme Court Seat

There has been a slight narrowing in the presidential race in the latest national Monmouth University Poll. Still, half the electorate say they have ruled out a vote for Donald Trump while Joe Biden has an edge on understanding voter concerns.

The country is divided on filling the current Supreme Court vacancy, which marks a shift from four years ago when most voters supported considering a nomination, even at the end of a president’s term.

In other poll findings, a bare majority of voters are bothered by Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful handoff if he should lose.

Biden is currently supported by 50% of registered voters and Trump by 44%. The remaining vote is scattered across third-party candidates, including Libertarian Jo Jorgensen (2%), the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins (1%), and other candidates (1%), while 2% of voters are undecided. This is smaller than the Democrat’s lead of 51% to 42% coming out of the party conventions earlier this month. Biden’s lead over the summer had ranged from 10 to 13 points. Among likely voters, Biden currently leads Trump by 5 points (50% to 45%), with 1% each for Jorgensen and Hawkins. The Democrat had a 7-point likely voter lead earlier in the month (51% to 44%).

Independent voters are split at 43% for Trump and 41% for Biden. The Democrat had a small 47% to 40% advantage with this group at the start of the month. Geographically, Biden has also lost his advantage among voters living in swing counties – the counties where either Trump or Hillary Clinton won the vote by less than 10 points in 2016. Voter preferences in these counties now stands at 47% Trump and 46% Biden, whereas the challenger held a 47% to 40% edge earlier this month. Other demographic trends are fairly stable.

Biden’s firm support remains stable – 43% of all registered voters and 44% of likely voters are certain to vote for him. In early September, these numbers were 43% and 45%, respectively. Trump’s firm support stands at 40% of registered and 42% of likely voters now versus 37% and 41% earlier in the month. On the flip side, about half of the electorate (49% registered and 49% likely) are not at all likely to support the incumbent, which has been extremely stable since the summer. Fewer voters (44% registered and 45% likely) reject the challenger outright, but this sentiment has ticked up since early September (40% registered and 42% likely).

“Half the national electorate has been dead set against reelecting the president all along. But that does not mean they have completely gotten behind the challenger, particularly in the most competitive areas of the country,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Other results in the Monmouth University Poll find that overall voter opinion of Biden stands at 47% favorable and 46% unfavorable, while Trump gets a negative 42% favorable and 51% unfavorable rating. Opinion of the two candidates has been fairly stable in recent polls, but one metric that has been moving is the number of voters who do not have a favorable opinion of either candidate. This currently stands at 13% of all registered voters, which is down slightly from 16% in early September and 22% in August. Biden remains the preferred choice among this group (39% to 24% for Trump). More voters (52%) say Biden understands the daily concerns of people like them than say the same about Trump (44%). At the same time, nearly two-thirds of voters feel they have a good idea about the specific policies each candidate would pursue to help American families – 64% say it for Biden and 63% for Trump.

– Supreme Court vacancy –

American voters are split on the general question of whether the U.S. Senate should consider a nominee for the Supreme Court at the very end of a president’s term (47%) or if this should be put on hold until after the election (49%). Public sentiment on this question is different from March 2016 when a similar court vacancy occurred. Then, a clear majority (57%) of voters said the Senate should vet a nominee versus 39% who said the process should be put on hold.

In what should come as no surprise, 83% of Republicans say such a nomination should move forward today, although only 36% of GOP voters felt this way a little over four years ago when Barack Obama was president. Likewise, just 16% of Democrats approve of considering a nominee now even though 74% felt that way in 2016. Among independents, 48% say a nomination late in the president’s term should be considered, although this number is somewhat lower than independents felt four years ago (60%).

When asked specifically about the current vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 46% of voters approve and 51% disapprove Trump trying to fill it before the election. However, that opinion is basically flipped when voters are asked if the Senate should hold hearings on his nominee – 53% say it should and 43% say it should not. In 2016, 73% of voters said that the Senate should hold hearings on Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland.

Voters were asked about their sense of the ideological views of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s pick for the current vacancy. Nearly half (49%) think she is more of a conservative and only 5% think she is more of a moderate, while another 44% say they haven’t heard enough about her. Similar numbers of Republicans (50%) and Democrats (55%) see Barrett as conservative. When Garland was nominated in 2016, 25% of voters thought he was more of a moderate and just 12% thought he was more of a liberal, while 60% had not heard enough to judge.

“It’s unlikely that voters know any more about Barrett than they did about Garland when he was nominated. However, they start out with a much clearer expectation about the type of jurist Trump would pick,” said Murray.

“There was more volatility in the electorate in 2016 than there is today. But these results underscore the fact that the audience for the debates are voters who already have a rooting interest in one side or the other. The spin and media framing after the fact is more important for potentially moving the small group of persuadable voters who remain,” said Murray.

– Electoral process –

Trump has not committed to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election, saying on one occasion, “We’re going to have to see what happens.” Just over half of voters say the president’s statement bothers them (41% a great deal and 14% some), while 12% are not bothered much by this and 32% are not bothered at all. By party, 72% of Democrats are bothered a great deal by Trump’s statement while 57% of Republicans are not bothered at all. Among independents, 39% are bothered a great deal and 29% are not bothered at all.

The vast majority of voters (80%) express some concern about the possibility of election meddling undermining the integrity of the results. This includes 42% who are very concerned and 38% somewhat concerned. The total number concerned has increased from last month (72%), with the biggest increase coming among Republicans (from 66% in August to 81% now). By comparison, concern has gone up less dramatically among independents (from 70% to 77%) and Democrats (from 78% to 83%).

“Republicans have grown more concerned about election integrity and Democrats are worried about the transfer of power. The common denominator in both is Trump casting doubt on our country’s electoral processes,” said Murray. He added, “The fact that reporters and pollsters even feel the need to ask these types of questions should itself be worrying for every American citizen.”

Still, 6 in 10 American voters are confident – 24% very and 36% somewhat – that the November election will be conducted fairly and accurately in the end. Democrats (68%) are more likely than independents (56%) and Republicans (55%) to feel this way. These findings have been stable since Monmouth started asking this question in August.

– House ballot –

The Monmouth University Poll also asked about the U.S. House of Representatives election. The results show Democrats remaining ahead of Republicans in the generic ballot test – by 50% to 43% among registered voters and by 50% to 44% among likely voters. These results have not really changed since earlier this month (49% to 43% among registered voters and by 49% to 45% among likely voters). Democrats won the national House vote in the 2018 midterms by 8 points (53% to 45%) after losing it by one point in 2016 (47% to 48%).

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone September 24 to 27, 2020 with 809 registered voters in the United States. The results in this release have a +/- 3.5 percentage point sampling margin of error.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

Biden is currently supported by 50% of registered voters and Trump by 44%. The remaining vote is scattered across third-party candidates, including Libertarian Jo Jorgensen (2%), the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins (1%), and other candidates (1%), while 2% of voters are undecided. This is smaller than the Democrat’s lead of 51% to 42% coming out of the party conventions earlier this month. Biden’s lead over the summer had ranged from 10 to 13 points. Among likely voters, Biden currently leads Trump by 5 points (50% to 45%), with 1% each for Jorgensen and Hawkins. The Democrat had a 7-point likely voter lead earlier in the month (51% to 44%).

Independent voters are split at 43% for Trump and 41% for Biden. The Democrat had a small 47% to 40% advantage with this group at the start of the month. Geographically, Biden has also lost his advantage among voters living in swing counties – the counties where either Trump or Hillary Clinton won the vote by less than 10 points in 2016. Voter preferences in these counties now stands at 47% Trump and 46% Biden, whereas the challenger held a 47% to 40% edge earlier this month. Other demographic trends are fairly stable.

Biden’s firm support remains stable – 43% of all registered voters and 44% of likely voters are certain to vote for him. In early September, these numbers were 43% and 45%, respectively. Trump’s firm support stands at 40% of registered and 42% of likely voters now versus 37% and 41% earlier in the month. On the flip side, about half of the electorate (49% registered and 49% likely) are not at all likely to support the incumbent, which has been extremely stable since the summer. Fewer voters (44% registered and 45% likely) reject the challenger outright, but this sentiment has ticked up since early September (40% registered and 42% likely).

“Half the national electorate has been dead set against reelecting the president all along. But that does not mean they have completely gotten behind the challenger, particularly in the most competitive areas of the country,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Other results in the Monmouth University Poll find that overall voter opinion of Biden stands at 47% favorable and 46% unfavorable, while Trump gets a negative 42% favorable and 51% unfavorable rating. Opinion of the two candidates has been fairly stable in recent polls, but one metric that has been moving is the number of voters who do not have a favorable opinion of either candidate. This currently stands at 13% of all registered voters, which is down slightly from 16% in early September and 22% in August.

Biden remains the preferred choice among this group (39% to 24% for Trump). More voters (52%) say Biden understands the daily concerns of people like them than say the same about Trump (44%). At the same time, nearly two-thirds of voters feel they have a good idea about the specific policies each candidate would pursue to help American families – 64% say it for Biden and 63% for Trump.

– Supreme Court vacancy –

American voters are split on the general question of whether the U.S. Senate should consider a nominee for the Supreme Court at the very end of a president’s term (47%) or if this should be put on hold until after the election (49%). Public sentiment on this question is different from March 2016 when a similar court vacancy occurred. Then, a clear majority (57%) of voters said the Senate should vet a nominee versus 39% who said the process should be put on hold.

In what should come as no surprise, 83% of Republicans say such a nomination should move forward today, although only 36% of GOP voters felt this way a little over four years ago when Barack Obama was president.

Likewise, just 16% of Democrats approve of considering a nominee now even though 74% felt that way in 2016. Among independents, 48% say a nomination late in the president’s term should be considered, although this number is somewhat lower than independents felt four years ago (60%).

When asked specifically about the current vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 46% of voters approve and 51% disapprove Trump trying to fill it before the election. However, that opinion is basically flipped when voters are asked if the Senate should hold hearings on his nominee – 53% say it should and 43% say it should not. In 2016, 73% of voters said that the Senate should hold hearings on Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland.

Voters were asked about their sense of the ideological views of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s pick for the current vacancy. Nearly half (49%) think she is more of a conservative and only 5% think she is more of a moderate, while another 44% say they haven’t heard enough about her. Similar numbers of Republicans (50%) and Democrats (55%) see Barrett as conservative. When Garland was nominated in 2016, 25% of voters thought he was more of a moderate and just 12% thought he was more of a liberal, while 60% had not heard enough to judge.

“It’s unlikely that voters know any more about Barrett than they did about Garland when he was nominated. However, they start out with a much clearer expectation about the type of jurist Trump would pick,” said Murray.

– First presidential debate –

About 3 in 4 voters (74%) plan to watch the first presidential debate live on Tuesday night, although just 3% say that they are very likely to hear something that will impact their eventual vote choice. Another 10% say this is somewhat likely to happen and 87% say this is not likely. These results are practically identical to a Monmouth poll taken right before the first debate in September 2016, when 75% planned to watch that event live while very few said it was likely to affect their vote (2% very and 10% somewhat).

“There was more volatility in the electorate in 2016 than there is today. But these results underscore the fact that the audience for these debates are voters who already have a rooting interest in one side or the other. The spin and media framing after the fact is more important for potentially moving the small group of persuadable voters who remain,” said Murray.

A majority of voters (63%) would like to see the debate moderator fact check a candidate who states false information during the debate. Just 30% say this task should be left to the two candidates. The current poll results are similar to overall voter opinion in 2016 (60% moderator fact check and 31% leave to candidates). However, there has been a slight decrease among Republicans who would like to see the moderator undertake this role (from 51% four years ago to 44% now), while this opinion has gone up among Democrats (from 67% to 76%) and independents (from 60% to 67%).

“Don’t hold your breath for instant fact checks from Chris Wallace. The debate commission said this is not the moderator’s role, even if the public wants it to be,” said Murray. Wallace of Fox News will moderate the first debate.

– Electoral process –

Trump has not committed to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election, saying on one occasion, “We’re going to have to see what happens.” Just over half of voters say the president’s statement bothers them (41% a great deal and 14% some), while 12% are not bothered much by this and 32% are not bothered at all. By party, 72% of Democrats are bothered a great deal by Trump’s statement while 57% of Republicans are not bothered at all. Among independents, 39% are bothered a great deal and 29% are not bothered at all.

The vast majority of voters (80%) express some concern about the possibility of election meddling undermining the integrity of the results. This includes 42% who are very concerned and 38% somewhat concerned. The total number concerned has increased from last month (72%), with the biggest increase coming among Republicans (from 66% in August to 81% now). By comparison, concern has gone up less dramatically among independents (from 70% to 77%) and Democrats (from 78% to 83%).

“Republicans have grown more concerned about election integrity and Democrats are worried about the transfer of power. The common denominator in both is Trump casting doubt on our country’s electoral processes,” said Murray. He added, “The fact that reporters and pollsters even feel the need to ask these types of questions should itself be worrying for every American citizen.”

Still, 6 in 10 American voters are confident – 24% very and 36% somewhat – that the November election will be conducted fairly and accurately in the end. Democrats (68%) are more likely than independents (56%) and Republicans (55%) to feel this way. These findings have been stable since Monmouth started asking this question in August.

– House ballot –

The Monmouth University Poll also asked about the U.S. House of Representatives election. The results show Democrats remaining ahead of Republicans in the generic ballot test – by 50% to 43% among registered voters and by 50% to 44% among likely voters. These results have not really changed since earlier this month (49% to 43% among registered voters and by 49% to 45% among likely voters). Democrats won the national House vote in the 2018 midterms by 8 points (53% to 45%) after losing it by one point in 2016 (47% to 48%).

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone September 24 to 27, 2020 with 809 registered voters in the United States. The results in this release have a +/- 3.5 percentage point sampling margin of error.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.


Connect with NJTODAY.NET


Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!
Email ads@njtoday.net for advertising information Send stuff to NJTODAY.NET Like Us On Facebook Follow Us On Twitter Download this week's issue of NJTODAY.NET
Print Friendly, PDF & Email