There are certainly signs that the partisan fight over Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court goosed Republican enthusiasm for the midterm elections.
“This has actually produced an incredible surge of interest among these Republican voters going into the fall election,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said to USA Today after the final vote to confirm Kavanaugh. “We’ve all been perplexed about how to get our people as interested as we know the other side is — well, this has done it.”
A survey by NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist released last week indicated that McConnell’s excitement might be warranted: After trailing Democrats in enthusiasm during the summer, Republican enthusiasm for voting has caught up.
But that is only half the picture. More important is how those energized voters plan to cast their ballots — and a new CNN-SSRS poll suggests that the most enthusiastic voters are not those Americans most interested in rising to Kavanaugh’s defense.
Consider, for example, the responses to questions about how President Trump’s doing in his job or whether Kavanaugh should have been confirmed. Disapproval of Trump is higher among those who are more enthusiastic to vote, as is opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Even starker is the difference in opinions of Kavanaugh personally. Those most enthusiastic about voting are much more negative on Kavanaugh than those not very enthusiastic about voting next month.
This is not what McConnell might expect to see. Given that negative opinions of Kavanaugh are even more negative than the population overall — albeit often slightly — it reinforces that the most enthusiastic voters, according to this poll, are more densely anti-Kavanaugh.
We see similar divides on a battery of questions asking Americans how they feel about Kavanaugh. Consistently, the most enthusiastic voters hold more-negative views of the court’s newest associate justice.
Again: not indicative of a surge of people newly enthusiastic about voting after the Kavanaugh fight.
McConnell and his allies have argued that a central reason for that increase in energy is how poorly Kavanaugh was treated by the Democratic minority in the Senate. CNN asked about that, too — and the most enthusiastic voters were more critical of the Republicans and more favorably inclined to the Democrats' handling of the nomination than the population on the whole.
CNN also asked voters which party’s congressional candidates they preferred. Among all voters, the Democrats had a nine-point advantage.
Among those voters most likely to vote, the advantage was 13 points, up from 10 points before the Kavanaugh fight.