Voters split on confirming a new Supreme Court justice before Inauguration Day

Linley SandersData Journalist
Mark WhiteSenior Political Analyst
September 19, 2020, 6:25 PM UTC

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday, just 46 days ahead of the 2020 general elections. She leaves a vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States, which offers President Donald Trump the opportunity to appoint his third judge to the nation’s highest court. Trump will likely replace the liberal justice with a conservative pick and attempt to solidify a conservative majority on the Supreme Court for decades.

Any appointment will be particularly controversial because of its proximity to the 2020 elections. President Trump said that Republicans have an “obligation” to select a Supreme Court justice “without delay,” and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised that “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.” While the president appoints a nominee, the Senate must vote to confirm the nominee to the Supreme Court.

In 2016, McConnell refused to give President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee a hearing in the Republican-held chamber because it was too close to the election. That seat was vacated 269 days prior to the 2016 elections. McConnell said in a statement on Friday that “no Senate has confirmed an opposite party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year.” 

A YouGov snap poll of 1,200 registered voters conducted Saturday indicates that about half of registered voters (51%) do not believe President Trump should appoint a new Supreme Court justice before the presidential inauguration in January 2021. If President Trump does appoint someone—as he has indicated he will—voters are split on whether the Senate should confirm the nominee (45%) or not (48%).

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said that, “The voters should pick a President, and that President should select a successor to Justice Ginsburg.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer echoed that sentiment: “This vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

YouGov’s snap poll shows that about half of voters (49%) believe Biden would do a better job selecting the next Supreme Court justice than Trump. Two in five (40%) say that Trump would do better. While partisans overwhelmingly want their party’s candidate to choose the next justice, Independents favor Biden by 10 points—although, nearly a quarter (23%) do not know.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this YouGov Poll

Methodology: This article is based on a flash poll of 1,200 registered voters surveyed via YouGov Direct on September 19, 2020 between 9:07 a.m. and 12:10 p.m. This YouGov Direct Poll was weighted according to age, gender, race, education, and 2016 presidential vote. The margin of error is ±3.5%       

Image: Getty