Majority Of Americans Want The Senate To Consider An Obama Nominee To SCOTUS

Another poll shows that most Americans would prefer that the vacancy on the Supreme Court be filled by President Obama than that it be left open for the next President to fill, but other factors make it unlikely the Senate will act.

Scalia Seat SCOTUS

A new CNN/ORC poll shows that a majority of Americans believe that the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia should be filled by a Justice selected by President Obama rather than waiting for the election of a new President:

Most Americans want to see President Barack Obama nominate someone to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, but the public is divided on what ideological tilt they’d prefer to see in a nominee, according to a new CNN/ORC poll published Thursday.

The poll also finds those surveyed are also split on whether Senate Republicans would be justified in using the filibuster or other procedural moves to prevent a vote on a nominee they oppose.

Overall, 58% say they’d like to see the President nominate someone to the Court rather than leave the seat vacant until a new president takes office next year, 41% would prefer a vacancy.

And more — 66% — say that whomever Obama nominates should get a hearing in the Senate. But once that happens, 48% say that if most or all Republicans in the Senate oppose Obama’s nominee, they would be justified in preventing a vote to confirm him or her.

Obama has said he does plan to nominate someone for the seat, and has called on the Senate to vote on his nominee. Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, has said the Senate Judiciary Committee would not hold hearings on any nominee put forward by Obama, nor would the full body vote on Obama’s choice.

The public’s divisions by party are almost as deep as those found in Washington. While majorities of Democrats (82%) and independents (59%) want the President to nominate someone to fill the seat, just 29% of Republicans agree. And while Republicans see blocking a vote via Senate procedure as a justifiable move (77%), independents are more divided on that question (46% say it’s justified), while Democrats are not on board, just 25% say it’s justified.

On one matter, however, there is partisan agreement. Majorities of Republicans (67%), independents (69%) and Democrats (60%) want the GOP leadership in the Senate to hold hearings on the nominee.

(Emphasis mine)

These poll numbers are largely consistent with other public opinion polls on the issues that have arisen regarding filling the vacancy on the Court and how the Senate should respond to any nomination presented by the President. Immediately after Justice Scalia’s death and the announcement by top Senate Republicans such as Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley, supported by all of the Republican candidates for President, that the Republican Senate would not consider any nomination by President Obama to the Supreme Court and that the nation should wait until after the election and inauguration of a new President to fill the seat, 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 by Fox News,Reuters/IPSOS, and the Pew Research Center, as well as polling by Public Policy Polling of voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania, clearly show 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. Simultaneously, though, there are numbers in these polls that make it difficult for Senate Republicans to simply proceed as they normally would in the case of any other Supreme Court nomination. Specifically, each poll has shown that Republicans generally massively oppose the idea of letting President Obama fill the seat that Justice Scalia once held, and support the Senate blocking any nomination from the President via Senate procedures, although it is interesting to note that this poll seems to suggest that Republicans would support the decision to at least allow hearings. In addition to these poll numbers, conservative activists have pressed hard for “No Hearings, No Votes,” in recent days and have made it clear that moving from this position would likely cause a revolt on the right that could end up causing serious problems 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.

Given those competing interest, it seems unlikely that Senate Republicans will move off of their current position, at least for the time being. At least for the short term, it seems likely that they will continue to adamantly maintain the position they took in the wake of Scalia’s death, and which was apparently repeated during a meeting earlier this week between President Obama and members of the Republican and Democratic Senate leadership earlier this week, in no small part because the immediate political price that they would pay for deviating from refusing to consider the nomination is considerably larger than the price that they might pay by staying with their current position. Perhaps, at some point in the future, we’ll see them move off of this position and do something like at least hold hearings even if it’s clear that the nomination itself is doomed, but that’s unlikely to happen any time soon. More importantly, the closer we get to Election Day and the end of the current Congress at the end of the year, the less likely it will become that they’ll bow to pressure from the Administration to move the nomination forward. The only factor that could cause that to change is if we start to see more tangible evidence that this position is hurting the GOP in the race for the White House, or in the battle to keep the Senate. Absent that, the GOP has no real political incentive to change its position.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Campaign 2016, Politicians, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
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 contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. humanoid.panda says:

    Grassley just drew the first real Democratic challenger since forever. This is a good indication of how the issue is playing.

  2. C. Clavin says:

    Republicans see blocking a vote via Senate procedure as a justifiable move (77%)

    No reason to think that would change when President Clinton is inaugurated.
    Why confirm a nominee ever?

    Conservatism used to honor history and tradition…now Conservatism is just racism and whatever the emotions of entitled white folks might happen to be that day.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    Somebody’s leaked that the WH is vetting Jane Kelly, an Iowan like Grassley and unanimously confirmed to the Court of Appeals after a Grassley speech “effusively” praising her.

    If they nominate her, and she agrees, Obama either gets a confirmation or an issue for the general. As the GOPs once more hold a gun to their own heads while threatening to shoot the ni.

  4. Tillman says:

    On one matter, however, there is partisan agreement. Majorities of Republicans (67%), independents (69%) and Democrats (60%) want the GOP leadership in the Senate to hold hearings on the nominee.

    What, uh, is the explanation here? Conniving strategy, thinking if the GOP moderates a bit they’ll weaken Democratic chances in the election? Abject zealotry, thinking if the GOP moderates a bit SCOTUS will have a Kennedy seated over a liberal? Mix of both? An incarnation of the anti-establishment mood in the electorate?

    I can rationalize the 3 in 10 Republicans and Independents being anti-Obama enough to go along with McConnell’s roadblock. Having a harder time with the 2 out of 5 Democrats.

  5. David M says:

    I can’t help but think that Trump getting the nomination and then being rejected by the GOP will end this farce.

  6. C. Clavin says:

    OT…
    WOW…and…GADZOOKS
    Romney just tore the living crap out of Trump.
    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/romney-do-not-nominate-trump
    I’m not sure I would have chosen Romney to give this speech.
    Just the same…it is either going to tear Trump down, or make him stronger….no way it fades away, benign.

  7. DrDaveT says:

    Back in the Good Old Days, Republicans and Democrats did not disagree publicly about what outcomes they were pursuing. Everyone agreed that it was good if the economy was doing well, American interests overseas were being protected, we were secure from invasion and capable of defending our allies, etc. The differences were differences regarding which goals were most important and which policies were most likely to achieve them.

    Now, of course, privately the Republicans were really mostly focused on protecting wealth and keeping the underclass under, while Democrats were really mostly focused on making sure that those underclasses reliably voted for Democrats. But that was reserved for the smoke-filled room; it wasn’t part of the public discourse.

    Today, there is a public divide in what direction looks like progress. Portions of the population think that civil rights for gays, explicit recognition (and reduction) of institutional racism in law enforcement, reproductive rights for women, separation of Church and State, treatment of education and health as public infrastructure, and reduced (or at least stabilized) income/wealth inequality all look like progress. And they are opposed by people (not necessarily all the same people) who explicitly want to deny those civil rights, justify the racism, prioritize fetus rights over citizen rights, establish as much Christian theocracy as possible, protect individual property rights over the general welfare, and encourage wealth inequality.

    And every SCOTUS appointment is a de facto vote regarding which of those agendas will be pursued, and which will be trampled. It’s not that surprising that all of the political machinery comes into play.

  8. Ian says:

    Frankly, I think most Americans, conservative or liberal, just want politicians to do their job and make deals more than anything else. All things preferred, they’d prefer someone on the court that shares their ideology, but if nominating a moderate means that we won’t have to go through yet another firestorm in Washington, I think most Americans would happily accept that.

    I subscribe that’s this is one clue as to why Donald Trump is beating Ted Cruz in the GOP primary. Cruz’s exhortations that he will not make deals in Washington and lambasting Trump for presumable plans to do so are great for the section of the populace that shares his ideology, but not so much for anybody else.

  9. Lenoxus says:

    Why do the majority of Americans hate democracy? It’s like they don’t even care who the majority of Americans might want to be the next president. /sarcasm

  10. humanoid.panda says:

    @Tillman:

    What, uh, is the explanation here? Conniving strategy, thinking if the GOP moderates a bit they’ll weaken Democratic chances in the election? Abject zealotry, thinking if the GOP moderates a bit SCOTUS will have a Kennedy seated over a liberal? Mix of both? An incarnation of the anti-establishment mood in the electorate?

    Could be, they think the Senate should just confirm the appointment, and don’t understand hearings are part of the process.

  11. Ian says:

    David:

    The problem with that is that there are a lot of Trump supporters who frankly don’t care what happens to the GOP. This is helped by the fact that a lot of Trump supporters aren’t even registered Republicans.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/31/upshot/donald-trumps-strongest-supporters-a-certain-kind-of-democrat.html?_r=0

    Independents and non-voters are also featured in the Trump coalition.

  12. Ian says:

    C. Clavin,

    As a young man who likes to think of himself as conservative in the manner of a Disraeli, Bismarck, Theodore Roosevelt, or De Gaulle, I completely agree with you. There’s little of post-1992 GOP “conservatism”, particularly in foreign policy, that I can stomach. Nothing conservative about trying to engineer Iraqi society into a copy of the US, completely ignoring the realities of the country.

    And while I will confess that I love the fact that Trump has completely humiliated “Conservatism Inc.”, having him in charge of our nuclear codes is a completely different matter.

  13. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin: Romney, the last nominee, said of the current frontrunner of his own party:

    If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished

    Which is true. It’s also true, as Romney said, that nominating Trump boosts Hillary’s chances. But I think he failed to mention that next in line is Ted Cruz, who IMHO would be more of a threat to the country and have even less chance against Hillary. Mitt Romney, of all people, is calling someone else a liar and demanding he release tax returns. Mitt has been named as a possible compromise candidate for a contested convention. I’m sure the Trump people will make a point of Romneys’ self interest.

    What a freaking train wreck.

  14. al-Ameda says:

    On one matter, however, there is partisan agreement. Majorities of Republicans (67%), independents (69%) and Democrats (60%) want the GOP leadership in the Senate to hold hearings on the nominee.

    Clearly, many of the polled Republicans want McConnell/Grassley to at least go through the charade of holding Hearings, then Committee Republicans (or all Senate Republicans) have cover to vote against the nominee for any reason whatsoever.

  15. Ian says:

    @gVOR08:

    I always thought Mitt Romney was a good man and disliked a lot of the treatment he got in 2012, both in his own party and from the opposition. (Who hasn’t said and done things they regretted at freaking 14 years old?!) Absolutely awful candidate, but not malicious in the sense that a Gingrich or a Cheney or a Cruz is. That being said, this shows his completely political incompetence. Trump’s going to milk this for all it is worth, and his supporters are revolting every bit as much against what Romney represents as what Hillary does.

    A Cruz Presidency honestly scares me far more than a Trump one. How’s that for a kick in the balls? That being said, while I am scared about what Trump could pull in the Rust Belt if he chooses the right message for a general election and Hillary’s email troubles don’t abide, Cruz is a recipe for a 1964 style debacle no matter what happens. Nobody outside of his own ideological section of the GOP will vote for him. He just can’t win outside of the Deep South or heartland, and in several of those states, Trump’s message is clearly preferred to his.

    Hell, even other far-right Senators on the Hill don’t like the guy.

  16. Moosebreath says:

    @C. Clavin:

    “I’m not sure I would have chosen Romney to give this speech.
    Just the same…it is either going to tear Trump down, or make him stronger….no way it fades away, benign.”

    I vote for the latter. Romney is the type of establishment politician Trump’s supporters are running away from. They welcome Romney’s contempt.

    I am not sure if there is any Republican who could have made such a speech and have it resonate with Trump’s supporters (Paul Ryan? Rush Limbaugh?), but Romney is not it.

  17. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @C. Clavin: Great speech, but when he gets to the part about the economic plans of Cruz (WTF?), Rubio, and Kasich as the only route to American prosperity, I see that he’s still the same “venture capitalist” pirate that he’s always been and that he’ll really be just as happy as long as he’s still rich no matter what happens to the rest of us.

  18. Scott says:

    I wonder how Obama’s rising approval rating will impact the nomination and the response to the nominations. His approval rating is now at its highest in 21/2 years.

  19. C. Clavin says:

    @Moosebreath:
    I’m wondering if that was Romney’s 2016 campaign kick-off speech???

  20. EddieInCA says:

    @Scott:

    I wonder how Obama’s rising approval rating will impact the nomination and the response to the nominations. His approval rating is now at its highest in 21/2 years.

    I’m sure there are alot of people who are watching the GOP Circus and saying “You know, that black feller in the White House, might not be so bad after all….”

  21. Facebones says:

    I’ve said before that McConnell played this all wrong. All he had to do was say that the Senate would fulfill its duties and consider any qualified candidate that Obama put forward. Then they could’ve held sham hearings and said, sorrowfully, that boy howdy, they’d love to approve a nominee but that divisive Obama just keeps on sending us doctrinaire Marxists and there’s just no way we could approve them. Then at least he’d have the illusion of at least attempting to do his job and the beltway media would have drooled all over themselves about how the Republicans were being accommodating but mean ol’ Obama was the problem.

    Instead, he reflexively ran his mouth. No hearings! No new justice! Now he’s staring at nominee Trump who will have zero coattails. President Hillary will come in with control of the Senate and maybe – depending on how outright racist a campaign Trump runs – control of the house. Getting a moderate judge from Obama may be McConnell’s only chance to have any influence on the outcome. I’ll bet you that Obama gets his third justice before the end of the primaries.

    Obama has certainly been blessed in the quality of his adversaries.

  22. Moosebreath says:

    @Facebones:

    Much sense as that would have made, that could never have worked in today’s GOP. Had McConnell permitted hearings, the base would have assumed the Establishment was selling them down the river yet again. And there’s no way in this internet age that the Establishment could have told the base “Shh — we are only holding sham hearings” and not have it in full public view within 10 minutes.

  23. Tillman says:

    @Facebones: “Instead, he reflexively ran his mouth.”

    No. He had to say no, he couldn’t bury this in parliamentary process. His strategy since 2012 has been to delay any significant government action to the next presidential term, and it was ramped up after 2014 gave him the Senate. McConnell hasn’t had a new strategy since 2010 (“one-term president”), only new depths to an old one. He didn’t blunder his way into this.

  24. David M says:

    @Ian:

    I think the GOP establishment both running away from Trump and saying he should choose the justice won’t be tenable in the long term.

  25. Ian says:

    @David M:

    Well, if the GOP Establishment was smarter, we wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with, but I digress. It’s funny that the neocons and free market hucksters whine about Trump without forgetting that they did a similar hostile takeover in the 90s of the party of Baker, Snowcroft, and Bush the Elder.

    It’s severe, but losing a Supreme Court battle is nevertheless recoverable. Eventually another judge is going to die or retire. Colluding with Trump might not be. Granted, it also could be that the post-Reagan era GOP is already dead, a thesis that I subscribe to, but I don’t think that’ll be an argument the K-street boys accept.

  26. Andre Kenji says:

    @Ian: As a Brazilian that can read in Spanish and that follows the news about Africa via the BBC World Service I can say that Trump REALLY resembles your typical right wing demagogue from the Third World.

    There are dozens of American politicians that are really horrible, but Trump is the first that really resembles the REALLY BAD Third World politician.

  27. gVOR08 says:

    @Ian:

    He just can’t win outside of the Deep South or heartland, and in several of those states, Trump’s message is clearly preferred to his.

    I loved it in his acceptance speech Tuesday when Cruz said OK, Trump won in the Trump friendly southern states but Cruz would do better as the race moved north and west. Stupid, ignorant, or just thinks his audience is?

  28. John says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    You don’t even have to go to the Third World. Look at Berlusconi in Italy. Behind all the clownishness was a man who really devastated his country, yet managed to keep winning elections. He owed his loss of power more to the IMF than to much of the Italian electorate.

    No kidding. I was in Brazil last summer, actually. I know that Brazil was under a military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985, but most of the generals in charge-Medici, Geisel, etc-seemed to be more colorless technocrats rather than flamboyant demagogues. Am I wrong? What about Vargas?

    I occasionally worry that we are on our way to becoming like a lot of South America with nuclear weapons and a complete lack of the “a doce vida” culture-a lot of the negatives combined with US-centric problems (our foreign policy) but without the perks. This is for a lot of reasons, socioeconomic inequality highly among them, but our politics is another. Trump isn’t so much the cause of this so much as he is a symptom of it.

    @gVOR08:

    The odd thing is, I think Trump by contrast did really well in his post-Super Tuesday speech for a general election, which was scary. The Detroit debate was a very different story.

    I do think Cruz was playing to his audience. He clearly shifted last night to a different tack of sorts, but nowhere near where he needs to be to win outside of his stomping grounds.