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Do Republican Women Support Kavanaugh?

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Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is embroiled in multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, and after Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, his future on the court may be in jeopardy. But regardless of what the Senate decides, recent polls indicate he has lost support among the American public. Polls have also shown a gender divide: Women were more likely than men to oppose Kavanaugh and more likely to believe Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations. But as we’ve reported before, a person’s party might still be a better indicator of how they feel about Kavanaugh’s nomination than their gender is. So we were somewhat surprised when, earlier this week, a Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted before Thursday’s hearing reported an 18-point drop in net approval among Republican women.1

To get a better sense of why some Republican women are breaking ranks, we reached out to pollsters who had asked about public support for Kavanaugh and asked them to send us results filtered by Republican women. But as you can see in the table below, we found that results so far don’t show a reliable trend among GOP women’s views of Kavanaugh. Rather, there is quite a bit of noise among the three polls we looked at, which could partly be attributable to the larger margin of error attached to any results pulled from a subset of a poll. While the Politico/Morning Consult poll found that Kavanaugh’s net support among Republican women had dropped by 18 points, HuffPost/YouGov found a 12-point net gain among that same group, and YouGov/Economist found a smaller net gain of 2 points.

GOP women may — or may not — be abandoning Kavanaugh

It depends on which poll you’re looking at

Previous Poll Most Recent Poll
Pollster End Date Net Support End Date Net Support Change
Huffpost/YouGov Sept. 18 +65 Sept. 22 +77 +12
Morning Consult/Politico Sept. 19 +52 Sept. 23 +34 -18
YouGov/Economist Sept. 18 +55 Sept. 25 +57 +2

So what do we make of this? There are a number of reasons polls can vary significantly, including the technique used to contact respondents, the sample size, how the questions are worded and when the poll is taken. The Morning Consult polls had a fairly small sample size of Republican women,2 as did the other polls we assessed. This is common when surveying a subset of a population, but it can mean that, as we mentioned, the margin of error is somewhat larger for these groups than it is for the full sample.3 Another complicating factor is that the Morning Consult polls were being conducted while new allegations of Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct were still emerging. As Jeff Cartwright, a managing director at Morning Consult, told us, “The thing about our poll is that it was coming out of the field just as that New Yorker story,” in which a college classmate accused Kavanaugh of shoving his penis in her face, “went up on Sunday, so it doesn’t even take that into account right now.” This means Kavanaugh’s support among conservative women could now be much worse (or much better) than these polls show. It’s still too early to tell.

That said, there is evidence that Kavanaugh’s public support declined this week, with recent polls showing his net approval rating anywhere between -3 and -6 points. Kavanaugh is a historically unpopular Supreme Court nominee, but if we go back to the beginning of July when polls first started asking about his confirmation, we can see that his net approval rating became increasingly negative in the days after the first allegations of sexual misconduct became public.

Now that the confirmation hearing is over, polls in the coming weeks will hopefully give us a clearer and more accurate view of how voters (including women overall and Republican women) feel about Kavanaugh.

Other polling nuggets

  • A Quinnipiac University poll in Florida shows good news for Democrats in the state’s Senate and governor races. The poll found Democrat Andrew Gillum 9 points ahead of his Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, in the race for governor. That comes on the heels of several high quality polls4 showing Gillum in the lead. It also shows Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson 7 points ahead of Republican Gov. Rick Scott in the Senate race following one poll that found Nelson 3 points ahead and another that found the two in a dead heat. The FiveThirtyEight Senate forecast currently gives Nelson a 5 in 8 chance of winning.
  • A Monmouth University poll found a close race between Republican incumbent Dave Brat and Democrat Abigail Spanberger in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. The poll found that under their standard midterm likely voter model, the two candidates were tied, but under a “Democratic Surge”5 likely voter model, Spanberger was 3 points ahead. The FiveThirtyEight House forecast shows Brat ahead by 2.4 points.
  • A Siena College/New York Times Upshot poll in New Jersey’s 3rd District found Democrat Andy Kim 10 points ahead of Republican incumbent Tom MacArthur. That’s a much bigger gap reported than what the previously available public polling shows, and the Upshot said they will likely poll the district again. The FiveThirtyEight House forecast gives a 2 in 3 chance of Andy Kim winning in the district and a 3-point gap in the forecasted vote share.
  • 61 percent of registered voters are more enthusiastic than usual to vote in congressional elections, according to two polls released this week, one by Gallup and the other by the Pew Research Center. That is the highest midterm voter enthusiasm number Pew has recorded, but Gallup reported higher voter enthusiasm in March of 2010. Both polls show higher enthusiasm among Democrats than Republicans, but the Gallup poll shows a 3-point enthusiasm gap, while the Pew poll shows an 8-point gap.
  • The Republican Party’s favorability rating is at the highest it has been since 2011 according to a Gallup poll, which found that 45 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the Republican party and 44 percent have a favorable view of the Democratic party.
  • One third of adults ages 45 and over in the U.S. are lonely, according to a survey conducted by GfK Custom Research Inc. for the AARP. The survey used the UCLA Loneliness Scale, a 20-question survey instrument that is widely used to measure loneliness in scientific research.
  • About 1 in 5 U.S. parents are stay-at-home parents, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center. That’s held relatively steady since 1989.
  • “Supreme Court appointments” now tops the list of issues that voters say are important to their midterm vote, outranking health care, the economy and gun policy, according to a Pew Research Center poll.
  • 42 percent of adults believe U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should keep his job, according to an Ipsos/Reuters poll. Only 22 percent said he shouldn’t.
  • According to a poll by Latino Decisions, 60 percent of registered Latino voters have not been contacted by candidates from either party.
  • Brazilians will head to the polls on Oct. 7 to elect a new president and legislature. Several polls show former captain Jair Bolsonaro of the Social Liberal Party leading former São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad. Haddad succeeded former President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva as head of the Worker’s Party after the Brazilian court banned Silva from running following a corruption conviction. Candidates from several other parties will also be on the ballot.

Trump approval

Polls this week showed an overall uptick in Trump’s approval rating. His net approval rating currently sits at -11.3 percentage points, according to our tracker. (That’s a 41.5 percent approval rating and a 52.8 percent disapproval rating.) That’s an increase net approval from one week ago, when it stood at -13.1 points; 40.5 percent of Americans approved of Trump’s job performance and 53.6 percent disapproved. At this time last month, that net approval was -12.4 points — 41.4 percent approval, 53.6 percent disapproval.

Generic ballot

According to our tracker of generic congressional ballot polls, Americans currently opt for a hypothetical Democratic House candidate over a hypothetical Republican by a 8.7-point margin (49.6 percent to 40.9 percent). Democrats have gained support from one week ago, when they led by 8.8 points (49.2 percent to 40.4 percent). One month ago, the Democrats had a 7.7-point advantage, 47.6 percent to 39.9 percent.

Check out our 2018 House and Senate forecasts and all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the midterms.

CORRECTION (Sept. 28, 3:30 p.m.): A previous version of this article gave the wrong rank for former military officer Jair Bolsonaro. He was a captain, not a general.

Footnotes

  1. The drop in net approval was calculated by looking at the difference in the net support among GOP women in the two most recent Politico/Morning Consult polls: The first was released on Sept. 20 and the second on Sept. 26.

  2. Morning Consult interviewed 331 Republican women in their Sept. 20 poll and 376 Republican women in their Sept. 26 poll.

  3. We estimate that the margin of error for these subsets is in the area of +/- 7 for all three sets of polls, whereas the margin for the full polls is between +/-2 and +/- 4.

  4. Polls conducted by pollsters that were rated A or A- by FiveThirtyEight based on their historical accuracy.

  5. Monmouth included a second set of results in their poll that took into account a larger turnout of Democratic voters than their standard midterm model.

Janie Velencia is a freelance writer focused on survey research. She previously covered the 2016 elections as the associate polling editor for The Huffington Post. Prior to that, Janie managed congressional data and wrote for CQ Roll Call.

Dhrumil Mehta is a database journalist at FiveThirtyEight focusing on politics.

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