Amy Coney Barrett: A qualified but divisive Supreme Court nominee

October 15, 2020, 7:00 PM GMT+0

Americans view Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, as qualified to serve, but the latest Economist/YouGov Poll finds her nomination dividing the country along clearly partisan lines.

More Democrats say Barrett is qualified than want to see her confirmed. They would much prefer that any replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg take place after the November election, with the newly-elected President and Congress making the decision. At publication, the committee vote on Barrett’s nomination is scheduled for October 22.

Who sits on the Supreme Court clearly matters to voters in the election coming in November. However, the voting public – both those supporting former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, and those voting to re-elect President Trump – may have accepted the fact that Senate Republicans have the votes to confirm Coney Barrett. The proportion of people who say the appointment of a new Supreme Court Justice is very important in their vote decision has fallen from 45% last week to 37% this week.

The Supreme Court is the only one of the three federal branches which receives a favorable rating from Americans. This week, 50% approve and 29% disapprove of how the Court does its job. Trump voters approve by five to one, while Biden supporters are evenly divided. The Court’s rating has gone up in the last week. Last week, 45% approved and 34% disapproved.

The overall ideological perception of the Court is that its ideology is somewhere between moderate and conservative, though perceptions vary depending on a person’s own ideology. Most Biden supporters describe the Court as conservative; half of Trump voters, however, say the Supreme Court is moderate in its ideology.

There is less disagreement when it comes to the perception of Judge Coney Barrett. Nearly three in four registered voters call Coney Barrett a conservative. Trump supporters are more likely simply to say Coney Barrett is “conservative,” while most Biden voters describe her as “very conservative.”

Coney Barrett is an observant Roman Catholic, and Catholics in this poll support her confirmation 48% to 35%. Support is overwhelming among those Catholics who say their religion is “very important” to them. Close to two-thirds (63%) in this group want Coney Barrett confirmed, while only 30% do not. Catholics who describe religion as less important in their lives are divided evenly on her confirmation.

That same divide exists among Catholics when it come to the presidential election. Likely Catholic voters who say their Catholic religion is very important are supporting President Trump 63% to 35%. But Catholics overall are as likely to say they are voting for Joe Biden as they are to say they are voting for President Trump.

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See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 registered voters interviewed online between October 11 - 13, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 4% for the overall sample.

Image: Getty