Democrats want to portray the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett as a raw power play that was antithetical to our democracy. Yet, public opinion polls tell us that, had Justice Barrett’s nomination been put to a vote by the American people, she would have been confirmed by a margin comparable to or greater than the one provided by the Senate.
An earlier survey by Morning Consult, taken shortly after the nomination was announced, found that only 37 percent favored confirming Barrett. It seems, then, that the more the public learned, the more it liked the idea of her serving on the Supreme Court.
Even Democrats warmed somewhat to Barrett. In the initial Morning Consult poll, only 14 percent of them favored her confirmation. In the final poll, her support among Dems had more than doubled — to 32 percent.
Among Senate Democrats her level of support was 0 percent.
What accounts for the public’s approval of confirming a very conservative Supreme Court nominee? To begin with, I think many people still hold the old-fashioned presumption that a president’s nominee to the Court should be confirmed, and that is this true regardless of when in the president’s term the nomination is made.
In Barrett’s case, moreover, the nominee made a very good impression. She is attractive, well credentialed, and has a great family. She was patient, poised, and articulate during her Senate hearing.
These two factors — the general presumption and Barrett’s personal qualities — may be sufficient to explain the favorable poll results. But is there an ideological/jurisprudential component, as well?
Quite possibly. I doubt the public is interested in the finer points of Barrett’s originalism, but the general notion that the Constitution shouldn’t be interpreted expansively might well command at least plurality support.
Apparently, most Americans understand that Barrett’s addition will make the Court more conservative. 54 percent of those survey by Morning Consult said they believe this will happen.
It’s not clear, however, what level of support she enjoyed within this subgroup. Nor can we say whether those in the subgroup who supported her confirmation did so because, or in spite, of the direction in which she would push the Court.
I think we can say, though, that the Senate Democrats’ attacks on Barrett fell flat. The claim that Barrett will provide the vote that kills Obamacare didn’t seem to move the needle against her. Nor did the more plausible (though still highly speculative) claim that she will be the vote that overturns Roe v. Wade.
At a minimum, the public opinion polls on Amy Coney Barrett suggest that (1) her confirmation is no affront to democracy (2) conservatism sells better if accompanied by an attractive, kind face, and (3) whatever the outcome of next week’s election, America doesn’t favor the hard left turn the Democrats have in mind for the country.