- About 68% of Americans view Supreme Court confirmations as more politics than law.
- Nineteen percent of respondents said they watched some or all of the hearing live.
- The majority of Americans who watched the hearing said they support Judge Jackson’s confirmation on the Supreme Court.
WASHINGTON — The arduous process of confirming a Supreme Court candidate has turned into one of the most important spectacles in American politics — once job interviews, law lectures and television campaign ads that lasted four days.
With Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s landmark confirmation in the books, a new poll shows most Americans are unsure whether it’s worth all the fuss.
According to an exclusive USA Today/Ipsos poll conducted after Jackson’s confirmation, nearly seven in 10 see the constitutionally mandated act of ratifying a US Supreme Court candidate as politics more than substance. Only 36% of the people say that a marathon of hearings leads to better justice in the High Court.
Skepticism appears to be shared in the party’s identity: less than half of both Republicans and Democrats think hearings lead to better outcomes.
“I think it’s already decided what they’re going to (vote) for, before they even start talking or interviewing each other,” said a 68-year-old Missouri business. Said owner Teresa Griese, who identifies as an independent. “I believe this is politics. I do not believe it is a reasonable choice.”
Georgia Lottery sales representative Jackie Johnson, 74, who identifies as a Democrat, said the result depends on who is in office.
“It’s a two-sided thing. It’s like a game of baseball: One side will win,” Johnson said.
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If Americans are turned down by confirmation hearings, they themselves share sentiments with judges, outside experts, and even senior Senate aides—some of whom have told them about the commission created by President Joe Biden. For “kabuki theatre” and described as “unbearable”. To study the politicization of the Supreme Court last year.
Public support for the Supreme Court has fallen in recent months as its 6-3 conservative majority battles a range of culture war issues such as access to abortion, the availability of handguns, and the constitutionality of affirmative action in college admissions. But some, including Chief Justice John Roberts, have warned that the overly biased confirmation process has played a role in damaging the court’s image.
“When you have an intensely political, divisive hearing process, it increases the risk that whoever comes out of it will be seen in those terms,” Roberts said in 2016.
Judge Jackson of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit was confirmed 53-47 on April 7 and will be sworn in as the 116th Supreme Court justice later this year. The Harvard-educated attorney and Miami native would become the first black woman in its 233-year history to serve on the court, a milestone even acknowledged by some of her critics.
Less than half – four in ten Americans – said Jackson was treated fairly at their hearing last month. The number of tuners to watch increased to 55%.
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee answered questions about critical race theory to Jackson, how often she attends church and how she would define the word “woman.” He faced questions about his judicial philosophy, his work as a federal public defender, and his convictions in criminal cases.
Sense. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, specifically slammed Jackson on the sentences awarded to those convicted of possessing or distributing child pornography, often below guidelines set by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. were. Jackson’s supporters point to Sentencing Commission data showing that most federal judges issue sentences below guidelines in child porn cases.
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It’s unclear how much of that criticism was cut, especially given the war in Ukraine, the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and the fact that Jackson’s confirmation upsets the current 6-3 balance on the Supreme Court. Won’t do Only two-thirds of respondents said Jackson’s “judicial philosophy” was a reason to oppose him—largely similar to the share of those who cited him as “weak and on record on children.”
“Judge, you gave him three months,” Hawley, widely considered a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2024, told Jackson during a hearing about one of the child pornography cases. “My question is, do you regret it – or don’t you?”
“Senator, I am sorry that in hearings about my qualifications to be a justice on the Supreme Court, we have spent a lot of time focusing on this small subset of our sentences.” Jackson responded at one point,
According to the survey, two in 10 Americans said they watched some or all of the Senate confirmation hearings live. Roughly a third said they learned of the hearing through news coverage. About half said they didn’t follow up on the hearing at all.
Griese said he saw “very, very little” of the hearing, while Jonathan White, 29, of New Jersey, who identifies as a Republican, said he saw it all.
“He’s highly qualified and they don’t want to hear about it,” White said of Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The poll shows that no one – other than perhaps Jackson – came out of the four-day series hearing looking much better than before the gavel fell. About 24% — including 41% of Republicans — said they had a more favorable impression of Hawley, Cruz and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. Senate Democrats fared only slightly better, with 30% saying they had a more favorable impression.
Those numbers were highly dependent on the defendant’s party affiliation.
By comparison, 40% of respondents said they had a more favorable view of Jackson after the hearing.
Overall, 49% of Americans said they supported Jackson’s confirmation—a number that reached nearly two-thirds among those who said they followed the hearing. About 64% of Americans said it was important that soon for the first time in its history the Supreme Court would have four women: Jackson and Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Amy Connie Barrett.
Cliff Young, president of poll firm Ipsos, said, “The importance of Jackson’s confirmation, and all it shows, went unnoticed by the American public.” “However, in our deeply partisan landscape, a strong majority sees the nomination process as nothing more than politics as usual, and the hearing did little to change a deeply rooted view of politics in America.”
In a USA Today/Ipsos poll of 1005 Americans, taken April 12-13, the margin of error is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
The Constitution requires that the Senate provide its “advice and consent” on presidential candidates to the Supreme Court, but this does not require a hearing—and for most of the nation’s history, senators have not called them. The first Supreme Court confirmation hearings were scheduled for 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis Brandeis, one of the court’s most influential associate justices.
In modern times, both sides have alleged political conspiracy. Republicans point to President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork in 1987, which Democrats torpedoed on his judicial philosophy. And they blame Democrats for the frenzy that surrounded the confirmations of Associate Justices Clarence Thomas in 1991 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. Thomas faced allegations that he sexually assaulted a former co-worker. Kavanaugh faces decades-old sexual misconduct allegations.
Both men denied the charges and were narrowly confirmed during a tense Senate hearing.
Democrats noted that Senate Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s 2016 candidate, Merrick Garland, in court by arguing that confirmation should not take place months before the presidential election. Four years later, following the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republicans ran through President Donald Trump’s nominee, Barrett, just weeks before the 2020 election.
Today, with few exceptions, the Senate confirmation process has become more predictable, nominees are increasingly quick to not answer direct questions and final votes are largely closed before hearings begin. Jackson received three Republican votes – Sans Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah. In declaring his support for Jackson, Murkowski pointed somewhat to the judge’s qualifications, which, he said, “no one questions.”
Johnson, a Georgia saleswoman, said Jackson’s performance made her proud.
“I don’t know if I could have been that strong and kept calm as much as he did,” she said.