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Poll: Majority Of Americans Say Senate Should Hold Hearings And Vote On SCOTUS Nominee

Supreme Court Building

A new poll from the Pew Research Center finds that a majority of Americans say that the Senate should hold hearings for President Obama’s expected Supreme Court nominee, but once again the numbers reveal a partisan disparity that make it unlikely that Senate Republicans will be moved from their current position:

A majority of Americans say the Senate should hold hearings on President Barack Obama’s choice to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Feb. 13.

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 56 percent of Americans believe the Senate should hold hearings and vote on the president’s designated successor, while 38 percent say the Senate should wait until the next president.

The results break down along party lines, with 66 percent of Republicans saying the Senate should not hold hearings and 79 percent of Democrats saying the Senate should.

Seven in 10 Americans (71 percent), say they’ve heard a lot about the tussle over the future of the Supreme Court, and 57 percent say the identity of the justice chosen to replace Scalia is “very important to them personally.”

This Pew poll is the latest data point in a series of polls that have come out in the wake of Justice Scalia’s death on the issue of how the Senate should handle a nomination to fill the now-vacant seat sent to Capitol Hill by President Obama. In the immediate wake of Justice Scalia’s death and the announcement by several top Senate Republicans that they would not allow a nomination to go through until after the election of a new President, polling seemed to indicate that Americans public were largely equally divided on whether or not they supported the position Senate Republicans were taking. Subsequent polls, though, including ones taken by Fox News, Reuters/IPSOS, and polling by Public Policy Polling of voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania, seem to clearly be showing that a majority of the public believes that the Senate should hold hearings and vote on President Obama’s nominee whoever it may end up being. At the same time, though, each of these polls shows that the vast majority of Republicans take the exact opposite position, saying that the Senate should decline to act until after the election in November and the Inauguration of a new President in January of next year. Additionally, conservative activists have stepped up their campaign for “No Hearings, No Votes” in recent days and seem to be making clear that moving from this position would likely cause a revolt on the right that could end up causing real headaches for Republicans concerned with holding the House and Senate in 2016 and defending open seats with candidates that actually have a chance of winning rather than candidates that meet some ideological purity test, an outcome that brought the GOP candidates such as Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle in the past.

What we have here, then, is a situation where Republicans will likely find themselves torn between two separate and very powerful forces. On the one side there will be the hard right of the Republican Party, led by activists and pundits that will demand complete loyalty to the “No Hearings, No Votes” position. On the other, we have what seems to be clear evidence that if the Senate adheres to this strategy it could risk damaging the Republican Party’s fortunes in the General Election, and especially its ability to hold on to marginal Senate seats in states such as Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Florida. It’s a position that the GOP has found itself in before, of course. In the summer of 2011, similar pressures were at play during the showdown over raising the debt ceiling, and they reared their head again during the run-up to the government shutdown and the shutdown itself when what clearly seemed like a minority of the GOP led the party down a path that seemed like it was nothing but self-destructive, and likely would have been had the shutdown occurred a month before the 2014 elections rather than thirteen months before those elections. This time around, though, everything is unfolding in an election year and, if Senate Republicans are going to adhere to the demands of their base, then they will have only nine months to find out whether they’ve finally pushed their luck too far with the American public.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. C. Clavin says:

    Well…most Americans believe in ghosts so I don’t really care about polls…even if in this case they happen to be right.

    The bottom line…and what should be repeated in every single story about this…is that what Republicans are doing is unprecedented and is in fact dangerous…perhaps fatal…to our form of Government.
    Note that McConnell wouldn’t even commit to giving a President Clinton nominee a hearing.
    It’s also telling that Republicans staked out their position while Scalia’s body was still warm…only filling in the justifications later. And it bears noting that all of their justifications to date have been fact-free. If facts were glucose Republicans would never have to worry about diabetes.
    As I typed yesterday…Republicans could very well maintain a flacid SCOTUS for years.
    Nothing illegal about it. Nothing moral, ethical, or responsible about it either.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  2. Jc says:

    I wonder who Donald Trump will nominate?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. C. Clavin says:


    I wonder who Donald Trump will nominate?

    His daughter…because maybe then she would finally let him sleep with her…which he has wanted to do for a long time according to his own statements.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

  4. Facebones says:

    It was stupid of McConnell to say there would be no hearings. It was needlessly obstructionist. All he had to do was say that he would consider all candidates fairly to make sure they fill the shoes of Justice Scalia. Then he would huff and puff abut how Obama was sending liberal ideologues and the senate couldn’t possibly confirm any of them. At least it would have the veneer of trying to fulfill his job requirements.

    Instead, he spoke first and thought later and now he’s in a bind. By refusing to have any hearings, he looks like a fool. He’ll cave on that before long, and I’ll bet you a dollar that Obama gets a third justice appointed before all is said and done. (Especially when the thought of Nominee Trump helps Democrats sweep the senate.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  5. NW-Steve says:

    It says something about our current politics that the Republican Congress will consistently and aggressively take positions that the majority of citizens appear to oppose:

    – Repeal Obamacare, check

    – Shut down the government with threats of debt default, check

    – Shut down Planned Parenthood, check

    I could go on.

    The depressing thing is that this appears to carry no price for them, or at least none that they care about.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  6. Deserttrek says:

    @C. Clavin: lie much there bucko?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

  7. Argon says:

    Wat? Haven’t they heard that Doug determined the Senate doesn’t have to?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Deserttrek says:

    @C. Clavin: you are one sick piece of work .. get help and soon

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 12

  9. Jc says:

    I was thinking he would have a new show “The Justice” where potential judges compete against each other in a reality show like no other. Just think, it will be huuuuuge

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. Tyrell says:

    “avoid a chaotic caucus”: it appears to me that these things are meant to be chaotic.
    I especially am looking forward to the horseshoe contest, the water balloon throw, and the wheelbarrow races.
    How about a mud wrestling match ?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0