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Americans Don’t Trust Trump on Supreme Court Vacancy; 65% Want Hearings

A new national Public Policy Polling survey finds Americans don’t trust Donald Trump to nominate a new Supreme Court justice, and would much rather have that decision in the hands of either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Beyond that, there is growing support for filling the seat this year and failure to do so could result in strong backlash for Senate Republicans this fall.

Key findings from the survey include:

-Only 38% of voters nationally trust Donald Trump to nominate a Supreme Court justice, compared to 53% who don’t trust him to do that. Only 57% of voters even within his own party trust Trump to make a selection, and more than 80% of Democrats as well as a majority of independents don’t trust him with that responsibility.

-Americans, by double digit margins, trust both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton more with the duty of picking a Supreme Court justice than Trump. Obama beats Trump 53/37 on that question, and Clinton does by a similar 52/37 spread as well. What’s particularly noteworthy is that in addition to more than 80% of Democrats, 29% of Republicans would prefer either Obama or Clinton making that decision to their own party’s presumptive nominee for President.

-By a 58/37 spread, Americans want the Supreme Court seat to be filled this year. That’s actually up from 56/40 support for filling it this year on a national PPP poll in early March. The reason for the shift is that 39% of Republicans now think the seat should be filled immediately, up from just 26% two months ago. That seems to suggest the ascendance of Trump has changed the minds of many GOP voters across the country about continuing to obstruct the nomination of Merrick Garland.

-There’s strong bipartisan consensus nationally that Garland at least deserves a fair shot at being confirmed. 65% of voters think the Senate should have hearings on his nomination, to only 17% opposed to doing that. There’s 81/6 support among Democrats, 56/22 among independents, and 55/26 support even among Republicans for holding hearings.

-There could be a big price to pay politically for Senate Republicans if they continue to obstruct the Garland nomination. 50% of voters say they’d be less likely to vote for a Senator who opposed having confirmation hearings, compared to only 18% who say that stance would make them more likely to vote for their Senator. Among pivotal independents, voters are 23 points less likely to vote for a Senator opposed to at least having hearings on Garland’s nomination.

-Mitch McConnell’s unpopularity continues to be a huge drag on the brand of Senate Republicans. Only 11% of voters nationally approve of the job he’s doing as Senate Majority Leader, to 61% who disapprove. Incumbents running for reelection across the country this year will be hurt by their association with him.

The bottom line is pretty clear- Americans want the Supreme Court seat filled this year. And support for doing that has gotten even greater over the last few months due to the substantial number of Republicans who don’t trust Donald Trump making that decision for the country. Voters see the refusal of Senate Republicans to even hold hearings on Merrick Garland’s nomination as unreasonable, and this issue could hurt them in the polls in November. It’s been 3 months now, and there’s no indication this political problem for them is going away.

Public Policy Polling interviewed 884 registered voters nationally on May 4th and 5th. The survey’s margin of error is +/-3.3%. This research was conducted on behalf of Americans United for Change.

source: Public Policy Polling, May 09, 2016

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