How Americans remember Justice Ginsburg, and what comes next on filling her seat

September 23, 2020, 2:50 PM UTC

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September, earns an overwhelmingly positive assessment from Americans. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, conducted after she died, nearly three times as many Americans view her favorably as unfavorably – up dramatically from the beginning of this year. 

Nearly half the public (46%) say she was a “great” or “near great” justice. 

Positive evaluations of Ginsburg among Democrats have risen 15 points since January, and Independents have grown more positive by 15 points as well. Even Republicans, who were negative about Ginsburg by three to one in January, now are evenly divided about the late justice, whose opinions they often disagreed with. Their favorable rating of Ginsburg has doubled.  

President Donald Trump, on hearing of Ginsburg’s passing, called her “an amazing woman who led an amazing life,” Many Republicans in this poll would likely agree. While President Trump lauded Ginsburg, he also promised to nominate her replacement quickly, by this Saturday. The Republican-led Senate appears to be ready to confirm whomever he names. Whomever the president names is an important choice for most voters, whomever they support. About seven in 10 Biden supporters (68%) and three in five (62%) Trump supporters say the choice of the next Supreme Court justice is very important to them personally.  

But should the president make a nomination now – just weeks before he faces an election? Americans say – though narrowly – that they would like him to wait for the next president, who would be either Donald Trump or the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden.  

On this question the American public divides on expected partisan lines. Democrats oppose the President making a nomination now, Republicans support it – and Independents are evenly divided.  

This question is complicated by history. In 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected moving forward with a Supreme Court nomination made eight months before the election, saying voters should have a voice and the nomination should not go ahead until the election. Looking back, the overall public rejects that decision (42% to 24%), though Republicans approve (40% to 26%) in hindsight.  As for the situation this year, there is a much closer division.

Ginsburg’s death has elevated opinion of the Supreme Court in general, and particularly among Biden supporters. Their approval of the Supreme Court rose 11 points in the last week. 

That’s a rise that may last only as long as the next Court decision, or the naming of the next Supreme Court Justice.  

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

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

MethodologyThe Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between September 20 - 22, 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 3.6% for the overall sample. 

Image: Getty