With Christine Ford’s accusations against Brett Kavanaugh dominating the news, the Supreme Court nominee’s standing with the American people has slipped from its already shaky position into rarely charted territory, according to multiple recent polls.
A Fox News poll released on Sunday found that 40 percent of Americans want to see Kavanaugh confirmed, compared to 50 percent who don’t — the worst numbers for the poll going back to 2005.
The same poll found that more people believed Christine Ford’s version of events than Kavanaugh’s.
Predictably, the poll was split along gender and party lines: Democrats overwhelmingly believe Ford; Republicans overwhelmingly believe Kavanaugh. Women believed her by 10 points; men by only one.
Another poll released this week, this one conducted by NBC and The Wall Street Journal, also found Kavanaugh’s numbers sinking. Thirty-eight percent of Americans were opposed to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, with 34 percent in favor. (Demographic splits were similar to the Fox survey.)
Like the Fox survey, the NBC/WSJ poll dates back to 2005. Again, Kavanaugh’s numbers are the worst it has recorded — including the numbers for Harriet Miers, whose nomination was ultimately withdrawn.
And a USA Today/Ipsos Public Affairs poll released this week found that 40 percent of Americans don’t want Kavanaugh to be confirmed, compared to 31 percent who do — numbers USA Today characterizes as “an unprecedented level of disapproval for a nominee to the nation’s high court.”
According to CNN’s Harry Enten, polling averages show that Kavanaugh is the least-liked nominee since Robert Bork in 1987.
It is unusual for any Supreme Court nominee, even for those who hold broadly unpopular opinions, to be polling in negative territory. But even before the Ford allegations became public, Kavanaugh was viewed coolly by the public. His initial unpopularity can probably be attributed to the outsize role he would play on the role if confirmed. Whereas President Trump’s first nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was taking over Antonin Scalia’s spot on the court (thanks to ruthless GOP maneuvering), Kavanaugh would be supplanting sometimes swing voter Anthony Kennedy, thus realigning the court’s balance rightward and putting Roe v. Wade in serious danger.
Kavanaugh’s dismal numbers are unlikely to be the most important factor in the calculations of two key Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, who could make or break his nomination. But the fact that Americans tend to believe Ford’s accusation has thrown a wrench into the plans of some Republicans, like Missouri’s Josh Hawley, to make the midterm elections a referendum on his nomination. Given the nominee’s poor standing, particularly among women, red state Democrats have much less to fear than they once did by opposing his nomination.