17 March 2016

Obama winning the Supreme Court debate by 62% to 27%


Yesterday, Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court and the overwhelming view of YouGov’s First Verdict panel is that the Senate should exercise its “duty and right” to “examine and approve or reject” his candidacy.Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 16.05.24
Opinion has moved towards President Obama since 14th February when YouGov last tested this issue. He then had a 57% to 37% advantage; a 20% gap compared to 35% today. National Review speaks for many conservatives, however, in urging Senate Republicans to stick to their “no hearings, no vote” position. The National Review believes “Garland’s record as a Clinton-appointed member of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals since 1997, and as its chief judge since 2013, offers no reason to believe that his addition to the Court would provide anything other than a reliable fifth vote to the Court’s liberal bloc.” Some Senate Republicans will meet Mr Garland, however, in a small sign that Mitch McConnell’s caucus is not as united as he would want it to be.

In the same survey we also tested a recent warning from Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan that there was a danger in moving from a balanced 5-4 Court to a more liberal (or, indeed, more conservative) 6-3 Court. This was how Ms Noonan put it:

“When the court is roughly balanced, 5-4, the public is allowed to assume some rough approximation of justice will occur—that something that looks like justice will be handed down. There will be chafing and disappointments. ObamaCare will be upheld. Yay! Boo! Gay marriage will be instituted across the land. Yay! Boo! The closeness of the vote suggests both sides got heard. The closeness contributes to an air of credibility. That credibility helps people accept the court’s rulings.

When the balance of the court tips too much one way, it invites people to see injustice and bully politics. It invites unease and protest. That in turn will produce another crack in the system—and in public respect for the system. This divided nation does not need more cracks and strains.”

The First Verdict panelists reached a similar conclusion. By 59% to 26% it sided with the view that public faith in the Supreme Court might be jeopardised if it started taking decisions that were consistently antagonistic to one section of public opinion.Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 16.05.38

For more about Portrait of America and the methodology behind First Verdict, click here.

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Tim Montgomerie is Editor of Portrait of America