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Americans Broadly Want The Senate To Confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson To The Supreme Court

The confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson are now over. And they were incredibly ugly.

In advance of the hearings, my colleague Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux wrote that Jackson’s identity as a Black woman as well as her professional background as a former public defender meant that it was likely she’d be subjected to more questions regarding her qualifications than another nominee would be. And sure enough, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee wasted little time grilling Jackson — often in ways that suggested women and people of color are less qualified than their white counterparts, or that their race makes them inherently biased against white people.

There were attacks both inside — and outside — of the hearings that tried to paint Jackson as a supporter of critical race theory, a legal framework for understanding systemic racism that the GOP has co-opted as a catch-all term for anything related to race. Her judicial record in cases involving child pornography was also heavily scrutinized, even though there is no evidence that she was uncommonly soft in her sentences.

We don’t know yet whether the hearings will dramatically alter Americans’ support of Jackson, but at this point, many Americans support her confirmation. Per a March 1-18 poll from Gallup, 58 percent of Americans said the Senate should vote to confirm Jackson, versus 30 percent who thought she should not be confirmed and 12 percent who had no opinion. Notably, that’s the second-highest level of support that Gallup has recorded for a Supreme Court nominee dating back to Robert Bork’s nomination in 1987.1 Only Chief Justice John Roberts scored higher than Jackson, and only slightly higher — 59 percent of Americans said they supported his nomination in 2005.

For weeks now, anywhere from a plurality to a majority of Americans have said that they support confirming Jackson. No polls have been conducted entirely after the start of the confirmation hearings — but nine different polls have found plurality support for Jackson’s confirmation since Jackson was announced as the nominee2 and five more have found majority support for it.3

Many Americans support Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation

Share of Americans or registered voters who say they support, oppose or have no opinion on the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court

Date Pollster Support Oppose No opinion
March 19-22 The Economist/YouGov 42% 25% 33%
March 18-21 Morning Consult/Politico 47 19 34
March 17-20 YouGov 41 25 34
March 11-14 Morning Consult/Politico 45 18 37
March 10-14 Quinnipiac University 52 24 24
March 10-14 Monmouth University 55 21 24
March 7-13 Pew Research Center 44 18 38
March 4-6 Morning Consult/Politico 49 19 33
March 3-7 Navigator 51 22 27
March 2-7 The Wall Street Journal/Impact Research/Fabrizio, Lee & Associates 51 30 19
March 1-18 Gallup 58 30 12
Feb. 26-March 1 Daily Kos/Civiqs 45 30 25
Feb. 26-March 1 The Economist/YouGov 43 25 32
Feb. 25-27 Morning Consult/Politico 46 17 36
Average 47 23 30

Polls may not add up to 100 percent due to rounding.

Source: Polls

But while Jackson has enjoyed majority support in many polls, there’s likely a ceiling to her approval since political polarization has made the process of selecting Supreme Court justices more contentious.

Support for Jackson’s nomination among Democrats has been particularly high, sometimes clocking upward 70 percent in the polls we looked at, but Republicans’ views have been much more divided. For instance, Morning Consult/Politico found in late February that 25 percent of Republicans thought that the Senate should confirm Jackson, while 30 percent opposed her nomination. But across three subsequent polls in March, support was lower among Republicans and opposition was higher, hovering in the mid-to-high 30s. Polls from The Economist/YouGov, dating from Feb. 26-March 1 and March 19-22, found a similar trend — but with greater levels of opposition among Republicans. In the earlier poll, 45 percent opposed confirming Jackson, but this figure grew to 52 percent in the later poll. 

Recent Supreme Court nominees haven’t received the same level of support they once did from Congress, either. Of the seven justices confirmed since Stephen Breyer, only Roberts has received more than 69 percent of the Senate voting in favor of confirmation. He is also the only justice among those seven to have earned the backing of a majority of the other party’s senators.

Three Republican senators backed Jackson’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last year, but as evidenced by the tenor of this week’s hearings, there’s little chance Jackson garners more — or even the same level of — Republican support this time around.

If confirmed, Jackson would be the first Black female Supreme Court justice, and as such, many Americans think her nomination is historic. A March 7-13 poll from the Pew Research Center found that 66 percent of Americans thought Jackson’s nomination was at least somewhat important. And a March 10-14 poll from Monmouth University found that 53 percent of Americans approved of Biden prioritizing the nomination of a Black woman. But one Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll from Feb. 18-21, which predates Biden’s nomination of Jackson, found lower levels of support for his promise to appoint a Black woman. Fifty-two percent of Americans said it was at least somewhat important to them that a Black woman become a Supreme Court justice, while 48 percent said it was not very or not at all important to them.

For Black Americans, Jackson’s nomination has been especially important. For instance, that Pew survey found that 90 percent of Black adults said having a Black woman on the Supreme Court would be at least somewhat important to them, compared with 66 percent of adults overall. And even though the AP/NORC poll found that a smaller share of Americans thought it was important a Black woman be nominated to the court, 85 percent of Black Americans said in that poll that it was at least somewhat important to them. But as my colleague Alex Samuels wrote earlier this week, this is likely not enough to substantially improve Black voter turnout or Democrats’ prospects in the upcoming midterm elections.

With the hearings now over, we now wait for Jackson’s confirmation vote. Given that the Senate almost surely won’t vote within the next week, there’s still plenty of time for public opinion to change around Jackson, especially as clips from the hearings make the rounds on social media and television. At this point, though, Jackson still benefits from having the support of many Americans, and opposition to her nomination doesn’t seem to exceed typical partisan divides. With a Democratic-controlled Senate, that might be all that’s needed for her ascension to the nation’s highest court.

Other polling bites

  • Generation Z is the least religious generation yet, according to recently published data from the December 2021 American National Family Life Survey from the American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life. Thirty-four percent of Generation Z (those between the ages of 18 and 24) reported being religiously unaffiliated, compared with just 9 percent of those in the Silent Generation (those between the ages of 76 and 93). The survey’s authors attribute Gen Z’s lack of religious affiliation to less religious participation during their formative years, finding that compared with older generations, Gen Z was less likely to have attended religious services or educational programs, or to have prayed with their family or read religious texts while growing up. A greater share of Gen-Z Americans also said they were never religious (15 percent, compared with 10 percent of 25- to 40-year-olds, 6 percent of 41- to 56-year-olds, 3 percent of 57- to 75-year-olds, and zero percent of 76- to 93-year-olds).
  • Americans largely plan to tune out the 94th Academy Awards, according to a March 4-7 poll from YouGov. Forty-nine percent said they were not interested at all in watching the Oscars, while just 9 percent said they were very interested. That’s in line with a March 15-18 poll from Morning Consult/Politico, where 67 percent of Americans said they were probably or definitely not going to watch. Of the best-picture nominees, YouGov found that “Dune” had the highest share of Americans who said they’d watched it — 26 percent — followed by “West Side Story” (25 percent) and “Don’t Look Up” (24 percent). And Morning Consult/Politico found that 22 percent had watched some or all of “Don’t Look Up,” versus 20 percent for “Dune” and 16 percent for “West Side Story.” (For more on what Americans think about the movies, you can check out our latest “The United Stats of America” episode here.)
  • What schools teach is a hot-button issue in the U.S., and although 71 percent of Americans said in a March 15-20 poll from Grinnell College/Selzer & Company that they trusted schools in their district to ensure library books are appropriate, only 49 percent said they trusted their local district when it came to teaching about racism. (Forty-three percent said they didn’t trust their district on teaching racism, compared with the 22 percent who said the same of their district and its library books.) Furthermore, when asked about what children were being taught in public schools, 64 percent said that schools were on the wrong track, while just 24 percent said schools were heading in the right direction.
  • In the wake of high gas prices brought on by inflation and sanctions on Russia, a majority of likely voters think the U.S. should now increase domestic production of oil and gas. According to a March 18-21 poll from Echelon Insights, a Republican firm, 69 percent said that the U.S. should increase domestic production in response to banning imports of Russian oil, and 62 percent said that increasing production domestically was the best way to deal with rising gas prices. When asked about specific policies, 42 percent supported approving the Keystone XL pipeline and 41 percent supported expanding oil drilling on federal lands.
  • A majority of American men have invested at least something in cryptocurrencies, according to a March 14-20 poll from The Harris Poll. To be sure, 49 percent of men surveyed said they’d invested nothing at all in cryptocurrencies, versus 51 percent who’d invested at least some, but that stands in stark contrast with American women. Nearly three-quarters of women (72 percent) have zero crypto investments, while 28 percent have invested at least some.

Biden approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker,4 41.6 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 53.0 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -11.4 points). At this time last week, 42.2 percent approved and 52.9 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -10.7 points). One month ago, Biden had an approval rating of 42.1 percent and a disapproval rating of 52.7 percent, for a net approval rating of -10.6 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot,5 Republicans currently lead by 2.0 percentage points (44.5 percent to 42.5 percent). A week ago, Republicans led Democrats by 2.2 points (44.8 percent to 42.7 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Republicans by 2.5 points (45.0 percent to 42.5 percent).

Mary Radcliffe contributed research.

CLARIFICATION (March 25, 2022, 9:37 a.m.): The table in this article has been updated to show that the Feb. 26-March 1 Civiqs poll referenced was conducted on behalf of Daily Kos.

Footnotes

  1. There are four nominees for whom Gallup didn’t collect data: Stephen Breyer, Douglas Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy and David Souter.

  2. This includes a Mar. 19-22 poll from The Economist/YouGov, a March 18-21 poll from Morning Consult/Politico, a March 17-20 poll from YouGov, a March 11-14 poll from Morning Consult/Politico, a March 7-13 poll from the Pew Research Center, a March 4-6 poll from Morning Consult/Politico, a Feb. 26-March 1 poll from Civiqs, a Feb. 26-March 1 poll from The Economist/YouGov and a Feb. 25-27 poll from Morning Consult/Politico. In fact, even a Feb. 23-24 poll from the Senate Opportunity Fund, a group advancing Republican candidates, found plurality support for Jackson’s confirmation, with 38 percent of likely voters supporting her nomination and 25 percent opposing it.

  3. This includes the aforementioned Gallup poll, a March 2-7 poll from The Wall Street Journal/Impact Research/Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, a March 3-7 poll from Navigator, a March 10-14 poll from Quinnipiac University and a March 10-14 poll from Monmouth University.

  4. As of 5 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.

  5. As of 5 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.

Jean Yi is a politics intern at FiveThirtyEight.

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