Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement on Thursday at a press conference with President Joe Biden. Breyer’s departure as the senior liberal on the Court raises speculation about where his replacement will fall ideologically. Biden has vowed that by the end of February he will nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court, as Breyer’s replacement.
A YouGov poll conducted January 26 - 27 indicates that 31% of Americans say Breyer’s spot should be filled by someone who is “very liberal” or “somewhat liberal.” About one-quarter (24%) want a moderate to be confirmed to the bench, while 19% would like someone who is “very conservative” or “somewhat conservative.” About one-quarter (26%) are uncertain. Breyer is currently among the least-known of the Justices, with 48% of Americans having no opinion of him.
Among those who have an opinion on Breyer and have heard about his retirement, 46% want the liberal justice to be replaced by an ideologically similar justice. Three in 10 adults in this group would like a moderate named, and 22% want a conservative justice.
President Biden has yet to name a nominee, but Americans are marginally confident that whoever he nominates for the post is more likely to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate than not. By 46% to 20%, U.S. adults believe his choice will be confirmed. By a similar margin of 43% to 28%, Americans say the Senate “definitely should” or “probably should” confirm Biden’s eventual pick.
Many members of both major parties don’t expect their preferred outcome with confirmation to occur. Three-quarters of Democrats (75%) want Biden’s nominee confirmed, but only 57% believe the narrowly held Democratic Senate will confirm the nominee. Just 20% of Republicans say the Senate should confirm, but 47% expect that it will.
— Ian Davis contributed to this article
Methodology: This U.S. News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online on January 26 - 27, 2022. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2016 and 2020 Presidential votes (or non-votes). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3% for the entire sample.