RELEASE: New Poll Shows Americans Overwhelmingly Support a Hearing and Vote on Merrick Garland’s Nomination

Voters find arguments in support of considering the nominee more convincing and have a very unfavorable view of senators who oppose doing so. 

Washington, D.C. — Polls in five key states and nationally show that American voters overwhelmingly support Judge Merrick Garland receiving a hearing and a vote on his nomination to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy. Additionally, the polls suggest voters view Republican senators who oppose a hearing and a vote much more unfavorably and still support the action even after hearing supporting and opposing arguments.

In fact, the strongest argument for considering Garland—that President Barack Obama has done his job and now senators should do theirs—far outstrips any opposing argument. The polls were conducted nationally and in Arizona, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The national poll includes oversampling of black, Latino, and unmarried women voters. Each of these states is home to a senator either on the Judiciary Committee or one with some history of bipartisan compromise.

“In a balanced test of the nomination process itself, and arguments for and against proceeding with hearings and a vote, those in support of Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court clearly win the argument,” said John Halpin, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. “After hearing an equal number of arguments on either side of the debate, voters remain strongly supportive of moving forward with the process and are motivated by the prospect of 4-4 decisions negatively impacting issues they care about. Nearly three months after the death of Justice Scalia, voters do not appear to be warming to the Senate Republican position on Judge Garland.”

The polls were conducted by GBA Strategies in late April with the following margins of error: national, +/- 3.1 percent; Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, +/- 4.0 percent; and Iowa, +/- 4.4 percent.

Key findings:

Majorities of voters—across the partisan and ideological spectrum—want the U.S. Senate to hold hearings and an up-or-down confirmation vote for Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court. By a 69 percent to 27 percent margin, voters nationally overwhelmingly think the U.S. Senate should move forward with hearings and an up-or-down vote for Judge Garland. This includes 79 percent of self-identified Democrats; 67 percent of independents; 59 percent of Republicans; and 55 percent of self-identified conservatives/libertarians.

Support for hearings and an up-or-down vote is strong across all five states as well.

“As you may have heard, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Do you think the U.S. Senate should hold hearings and then have an up-or-down confirmation vote on Judge Garland’s nomination?” (initial test)

  • Arizona: 68 percent yes/27 percent no
  • Iowa: 66 percent yes/29 percent no
  • Ohio: 65 percent yes/30 percent no
  • Pennsylvania: 66 percent yes/28 percent no
  • Wisconsin: 64 percent yes/29 percent no

By a 2-1 margin, voters nationally say they will look less favorably upon any elected official who refuses to support confirmation hearings and an up-or- down vote for Judge Garland. By a 43 percent to 20 percent margin, voters nationally say they would view an elected official from their state less favorably if that official refused to support hearings and a vote on Judge Garland’s nomination. Thirty-four percent of voters nationally say it would make no difference in their opinions. Fifty-seven percent of Democrats and 48 percent of independents say they would view an elected official less favorably for refusing to hold hearings and a confirmation vote. In contrast, by a 33 percent to 24 percent margin, Republican voters would view an official taking this position more favorably rather than less.

In the state polls, the names of their respective U.S. senators, some of whom have indicated potential willingness to move forward with the process, were inserted into the questions, producing results roughly in line with national trends.

“If [U.S. senator’s name] refuses to support holding hearings and a confirmation vote for Judge Merrick Garland for the U.S. Supreme Court, would you view him more favorably or less favorably, or would it make no difference?”

  • Arizona Sen. John McCain: 17 percent more/39 percent less
  • Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley: 20 percent more/40 percent less
  • Ohio Sen. Rob Portman: 17 percent more/38 percent less
  • Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey: 20 percent more/38 percent less
  • Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson: 21 percent more/39 percent less

The prospect that a 4-4 split on the Supreme Court could threaten issues of importance to voters motivates people to get more involved in the nomination process. When asked to choose which two priorities matter most to them in terms of issues before the Court, voters nationally are focused on a number of issues, including “immigration” (30 percent, top two), “health care” (28 percent, top two), “civil rights and voting rights” (26 percent, top two), and “money in politics” (23 percent, top two).

When presented with the idea that a 4-4 split on the Court might influence these issues that matter most to them, 45 percent of voters nationally say they are more likely to get involved in the nomination process versus 3 percent who say they would be less likely to get involved. Motivation to get involved is higher among African American voters (65 percent more likely), Latinos (58 percent more likely), Democrats (58 percent more likely), and progressives/liberals (60 percent more likely).

Read the full memo, national poll, and each state poll: Arizona, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

For more information or to speak to an expert, please contact Benton Strong at bstrong@americanprogress.org or 202.481.8142.

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