In the abstract, views of the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court have been all over the place. A slew of polls show that he’s never enjoyed majority support, but the percentage expressing support for his confirmation has jostled up and down, depending on the pollster.
Christine Blasey Ford’s public accusation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both were in high school and the special Senate Judiciary Committee hearing afterward had an apparently unclear effect on his support.
But that’s misleading. The graph above considers only those who express support on a question that demands people have knowledge of Kavanaugh and how he would be likely to conduct himself on the bench. If, for example, 40 percent of Americans supported Kavanaugh in July and 50 percent didn’t know enough to have an opinion, it’s very possible that a poll in September could show that most of that 50 percent had made up its mind — in opposition.
Something like that is what happened. If we compare the percentage offering support for Kavanaugh with the percentage opposing his confirmation — his net support — we see that although his support has been fairly steady, opposition to his confirmation has grown rapidly.
Kavanaugh’s nomination has consistently seen less support from women than men. In Fox News, Quinnipiac University and Economist-YouGov polling, his net support has dropped much more among women. (The YouGov poll has men’s support dropping significantly, as well.)
As with so much else these days, there’s also a broad partisan gulf. But in this case, that gulf appears to be widening, as Democrats increasingly reject his nomination and Republicans at least hold steady.
Earlier this week, Gallup dipped into its archives to reveal something remarkable: Kavanaugh is now the most polarizing nominee to the Supreme Court in decades. The gap between Republicans and Democrats on his confirmation exceeds 70 percentage points, nearly 20 points wider than any prior nominee.
Why? Because support from Republicans is higher for Kavanaugh than for any prior nominee from a Republican president since George H.W. Bush. At the same time, support from Democrats is lower than at any point over that period. In fact, they’re the highest and lowest levels of partisan support seen since 1991.
Interestingly, while independents have often sided more closely with the opposing party in more contentious nominations (like those of Clarence Thomas, Harriet Miers and Merrick Garland), support from independents on the Kavanaugh nomination is closer to the midpoint between the parties.
The vote on Kavanaugh comes as the nominee sees fading support from Democrats and independents. But most of the senators are Republicans, and voters in their party strongly support the nomination. The political calculus that results is not that tricky.