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Supreme Court Nominee Jackson's Support Tied for Highest

Supreme Court Nominee Jackson's Support Tied for Highest

Story Highlights

  • 58% of Americans say Senate should confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson
  • Only John Roberts had similar support among recent nominees
  • Republicans oppose nomination by 55% to 31%

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Initial public support for judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation to the Supreme Court ties as the highest Gallup has measured for any recent nominee. Fifty-eight percent of Americans say the Senate should vote in favor of Jackson serving on the Supreme Court. Only current Chief Justice John Roberts, at 59% in 2005, had a level of support on par with that for Jackson. Most other nominees had support in the low 50% range, with five below that mark.

Initial Support for Confirmation of Recent Supreme Court Nominees
Would you like to see the Senate vote in favor of [name of nominee] serving on the Supreme Court, or not?
of poll
in favor
Not vote
in favor
% % %
John Roberts 2005 Jul 22-24 59 22 19
Ketanji Brown Jackson 2022 Mar 1-18 58 30 12
Sonia Sotomayor 2009 May 29-31 54 28 19
Ruth Bader Ginsburg 1993 Jun 18-21 53 14 33
Merrick Garland 2016 Mar 18-19 52 29 19
Clarence Thomas 1991 Jul 11-14 52 17 31
Amy Coney Barrett 2020 Sep 30-Oct 15 51 46 3
Samuel Alito 2005 Nov 7-10 50 25 25
Elena Kagan 2010 May 24-25 46 32 22
Neil Gorsuch 2017 Feb 1-2 45 32 23
Harriet Miers 2005 Oct 13-16 44 36 20
Brett Kavanaugh 2018 Jul 10-15 41 37 22
Robert Bork 1987 Aug 24-Sep 2 31 25 44
Average for
previous nominees
48 29 23
Note: Data are based on first Gallup survey conducted after nomination was made. There are no measures for Stephen Breyer, David Souter, Anthony Kennedy and Douglas Ginsburg.

The results are based on a March 1-18 Gallup poll. President Joe Biden nominated Jackson to the Supreme Court on February 25 to fill the seat held by retiring justice Stephen Breyer. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on Jackson's nomination this week.

Gallup has measured support for nearly all Supreme Court nominees since 1987, with Douglas Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter and Breyer the exceptions.

For the 12 nominees measured prior to this year, an average of 48% of Americans expressed support for them, with 29% opposed and 23% not having an opinion. Jackson's support is thus 10 percentage points above the historical norm, while the percentage without an opinion is 11 points lower. Opposition to her nomination is similar to the average.

Some recent nominees had narrow margins in favor of their being seated on the Court. This includes Amy Coney Barrett (51% to 46% in 2020) and Brett Kavanaugh (41% to 37% in 2020) -- the last two of Donald Trump's three nominees -- and Robert Bork (31% to 25% in 1987), a Ronald Regan nominee whose nomination was ultimately rejected by the Senate. The Kavanaugh measure was taken before allegations of sexual harassment were made against him.

In addition to Bork, Harriet Miers and Merrick Garland are two other nominees who were not seated on the Court. Miers' nomination was withdrawn by George W. Bush amid concerns about her qualifications. Although initially 44% were in favor and 36% opposed Miers' nomination, later polling found the public evenly divided, with 42% in favor and 43% opposed.

Americans were generally supportive of Garland's nomination, but the Senate Republican majority refused to consider Barack Obama's 2016 nomination of him, citing the presidential election later that year. Four years later, Senate Republicans confirmed Trump's nomination of Barrett just days before the 2020 presidential election, a possible reason for the initially high level of opposition to her nomination. A second, late October 2020 poll found the publicly evenly divided, with 48% in favor and 47% against confirming Barrett.

Democrats Overwhelmingly Support Jackson; Majority of Republicans Opposed

The new poll finds 88% of Democrats, 55% of independents and 31% of Republicans saying the Senate should vote to confirm Jackson. The majority of Republicans, 55%, are opposed.

Support for the Senate Voting to Confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court, by Political Party
Vote in favor Not vote in favor No opinion
% % %
Democrats 88 6 7
Independents 55 33 12
Republicans 31 53 16
Gallup March 1-18, 2022

Jackson's support among Democrats essentially ties Barrett's 89% support among Republicans in 2020 as the highest a nominee has received among a party group in Gallup's initial poll on Supreme Court nominees. Roberts is the only other nominee to be favored by more than eight in 10 in a political party group, with 82% of Republicans favoring his nomination. Roberts did have higher support among Democrats (42%) than Jackson does among Republicans.

Typically, nominees are endorsed by majorities of supporters of the nominating president's party, the only exception being Bork, who was backed by 48% of Republicans initially. No nominee has attained majority support among those who identify with the opposition party to the president. Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas were favored by more than four in 10 supporters of the opposition party when first nominated.

Initial Support for Supreme Court Nominees, by Political Party
Figures are the percentage who are in favor of the Senate confirming the nominee; Sorted by support within the president's party
Democrats Independents Republicans
% % %
Democratic nominees
Ketanji Brown Jackson 88 55 31
Sonia Sotomayor 76 54 24
Merrick Garland 76 44 33
Elena Kagan 68 43 26
Ruth Bader Ginsburg 65 52 41
Republican nominees
Amy Coney Barrett 15 52 89
John Roberts 42 54 82
Neil Gorsuch 21 44 76
Brett Kavanaugh 14 38 76
Samuel Alito 35 43 73
Harriet Miers 27 39 73
Clarence Thomas 45 48 63
Robert Bork 18 30 48
Note: Data are based on first Gallup survey conducted after nomination was made. There are no measures for Stephen Breyer, David Souter, Anthony Kennedy and Douglas Ginsburg.

Partisans' opinions of Supreme Court nominees have become much more polarized in recent years. The most extreme example is for Barrett, who is essentially tied for the highest level of support from the nominating president's party (89%), and essentially tied (with Kavanaugh) for the lowest level of support from the opposition party (15%).

The 57-percentage-point gap in Republicans' and Democrats' support for Jackson's nomination is the largest for any Democratic nominee, although not much larger than the gaps for Obama's three nominees (Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Garland), which ranged between 42 and 52 points.

In contrast to these recent nominees, thirty percentage points or less separated partisan evaluations of Bork, Thomas and Ginsburg, who were nominated between 1987 and 1993.

Bottom Line

Before Jackson's confirmation hearings began, support for her nomination was as high as any other recent nominee for which Gallup has data. Most Supreme Court experts believe that Jackson will be confirmed. Even if all 50 Senate Republicans vote against her nomination, Vice President Kamala Harris would break the 50-50 tie.

Gallup has taken multiple measures of support for some recent Supreme Court nominees throughout the confirmation process. In most of these cases, the percentage in favor of confirmation held steady, while the percentage opposed increased and the percentage without an opinion decreased. Some, including Bork, Miers, Kavanagh and Barrett, had seen opposition meet or exceed support by the time the Senate voted on their confirmation. If Jackson's confirmation process is free from the controversy that plagued those of Thomas and other nominees, she is likely to have the backing of the solid majority of Americans when the full Senate votes on her nomination.

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