CNN Poll: Brett Kavanaugh nomination has lowest public support since Robert Bork

Donald Trump's second Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, receives a cooler public reception than nearly...

Posted: Aug 17, 2018 6:43 AM
Updated: Aug 17, 2018 6:43 AM

Donald Trump's second Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, receives a cooler public reception than nearly every nominee for the last four administrations, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. Women are a driving force behind the tepid response, with fewer than three in 10 saying Kavanaugh ought to be confirmed.

Overall, 37% of Americans say they'd like to see the Senate vote in favor of his confirmation. Kavanaugh's support is the lowest in polling dating back to Robert Bork's nomination by President Ronald Reagan in 1987. That's lower support for Kavanaugh than similar public assessments of the unsuccessful nominations of Merrick Garland and Harriet Miers, as well as all successful nominees save David Souter, Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer, for whom equivalent data are not available. Slightly more, 40%, say the Senate should not vote to confirm Kavanaugh, while 22% have no opinion on the matter. And Americans' first impressions of the judge are mixed: 33% have a generally positive take, 27% neutral and 29% generally negative.

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Related: Full poll results

Republicans are broadly supportive of Kavanaugh: 74% would like to see him confirmed, while independents split 38% to 38% and Democrats largely oppose his nomination (67% say he should not be confirmed). Republicans and independents were each more supportive of Neil Gorsuch's confirmation in the first weeks of Trump's time in office (84% of Republicans and 47% of independents favored his confirmation).

Women, in particular, are notably opposed to Kavanaugh's nomination, and it's not just partisanship driving the difference. Just 28% of women say the Senate should vote in favor of confirming Kavanaugh, compared with 47% of men. That gender gap extends to Democrats (6% of Democratic women support confirmation vs. 22% of Democratic men), and independents (28% of women vs. 47% of men). There's a far smaller gap between GOP women (71%) and men (77%).

Women are also less likely than men to say Kavanaugh's views are mainstream. Just 35% of women consider them to be mainstream vs. 50% of men. Here, there is a meaningful gender gap between Republican women (60% mainstream) and GOP men (77%), as well as between independent women (39% mainstream) and independent men (53%), while the gender gap among Democrats is negligible (23% of Democratic men and 19% of Democratic women consider his views mainstream). Overall, 42% of Americans say Kavanaugh's views are in the mainstream and 35% say they are too extreme.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has announced that hearings on Kavanaugh's nomination will begin September 4, but Democrats on the committee have sought access to more information from Kavanaugh's time working in George W. Bush's White House. The poll found 41% of Americans say they want the government to provide more documents from Kavanaugh's career and 27% say Senate Democrats have enough information already.

More generally, with the Supreme Court vacancy coming in an election year, Americans are evenly split over whether the confirmation process ought to be handled by the current Congress (45% say so) or the one elected this November (44% say so). In 2016, with an open seat on the Court ahead of the presidential election, 57% said President Barack Obama ought to be able to make the nomination to fill the seat, 40% the president elected that November. That seat was ultimately filled by Trump with Gorsuch. A majority of independents were on the side of the "current" officials in both cases (52% the current Congress, 56% Obama), while Republicans and Democrats have largely switched sides on the matter.

On other issues, the same poll found the President's approval ratings this summer holding largely steady. On the economy, 49% approve now, the same as in June. His approval rating for handling foreign trade has likewise held roughly steady since June, with 38% approving now. The President earns his second highest approval rating in the poll (behind the economy) for his handling of taxes (45% approve), and his worst reviews for his work on environmental policy (31% approve).

Support for family reunifications

A majority, 53%, disapprove of the way the Trump administration is handling judge-ordered family reunifications for those immigrants attempting to cross the border illegally and separated from their children; 39% approve. That's slightly less negative than the president's approval rating for handling immigration generally: There, 58% disapprove, about the same as in a June poll, and 37% approve.

Two-thirds of Americans (66%) say the government should do everything it can to keep those families together, even if that means fewer people who cross the border illegally are prosecuted. Just 27% say the government should prioritize prosecuting immigrants who enter the country illegally, even if it means their families could be separated.

There is a massive party divide on this question, with 94% of Democrats saying keeping families together should be the priority, while 58% of Republicans say the government should do everything it can to prosecute those entering illegally.

And here too, a large gender gap emerges: 74% of women say keeping families together should be the priority vs. 58% of men who say the same.

The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS August 9-12 among a random national sample of 1,002 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points, it is larger for subgroups.

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