Sunday, June 4, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Poll Says SCOTUS Fight Spells Trouble for GOP Senators

(CN) - If Republicans keep digging in their heels against President Barack Obama's eventual Supreme Court nomination, their obstructionism could cost the party four Senate seats, a new poll indicates.

Republicans controlling the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee signed a letter on Tuesday declaring their opposition to confirmation hearings for any candidate Obama nominates to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died earlier this month.

That same day, the Raleigh, N.C.-based firm Public Policy Polling, or PPP, released a survey showing that the hardline stance would be deeply unpopular in two states where Senate Republicans struggled for reelection.

Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman face negative approval ratings as they headed into an election year, and their positions put them at odds with more than 70 percent of voters in those states who wanted legislators to wait to see Obama's nominees before deciding on a confirmation, the pollster found on Tuesday.

The group's latest poll today finds a similar dynamic playing out for New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson.

Fewer constituents approve than disapprove of both Johnson (by a 33-50 margin) and Ayotte (42-48), as both head into reelection campaigns in states where voters want Scalia's vacant seat to be filled (by a 67-30 margin in Wisconsin and 60-33 in New Hampshire), according to the poll.

More than half of their respondents told PPP that this issue would make them less likely to reelect the lawmakers.

New Hampshire and Wisconsin voters found Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a "remarkably unpopular figure," with a 14-to-58 approval spread in both states, according to the pollster.

When he received the Senate Judiciary Committee's letter yesterday, McConnell announced that he would also refuse to hold hearings on a Supreme Court nomination. But the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, found that McConnell demanded judicial appointments 24 times during the George W. Bush administration.

The margins of error for all four state polls were between 3 and 4 percent.

Often described as a Democratic-leaning pollster, PPP has made headlines for its unconventional and cheeky polling questions. Its past polls found that God had only a slim majority of public approval, and that less than a fifth of Republican voters believed Obama would be allowed to enter heaven in the event of the Rapture.

Although these quirky questions brought constant accusations of bias, PPP ranked "most accurate" among the major pollsters in a Fordham University study about the 2012 elections.

Ayotte's spokeswoman Liz Johnson said that the senator believes "the confirmation process should wait until after the American people have spoken in the presidential election."

Her campaign manager Jon Kohan downplayed the poll as "no surprise" given the political orientation of the pollster.

Taking shots at what he called a "partisan, Democratic polling outfit," Johnson's campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger said "this is not about partisan politics - this is about respecting the Constitution."

"Everything from Second Amendment rights to reining in an unchecked executive branch is at stake - and these issues matter to the people of Wisconsin," Reisinger said.

PPP reminded its respondents that Republicans did not always believe in foregoing judicial appointments during a president's final year in office. One of the pollster's questions asked whether voters believed Republicans should "abide by [a] precedent" set by President Ronald Reagan, who nominated Justice Anthony Kennedy during his last year in office in 1988.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.