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New Poll Shows Unease With ‘Nuclear Option’ for Supreme Court Pick

Survey conducted largely before Trump announced his choice

President Donald Trump has picked 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. (David Zalubowski/AP Photo)
President Donald Trump has picked 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. (David Zalubowski/AP Photo)

A new poll commissioned by progressive groups has found that nearly seven in 10 voters say they’re against using the “nuclear option” to confirm a Supreme Court justice.

The survey was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for NARAL, Every Voice and End Citizens United, and shared first with Roll Call. It asked about the Senate Democrats’ insistence that the current nominee be confirmed with a supermajority of at least 60 votes. 

“Nominees for the Supreme Court currently need 60 votes to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The Republican majority in the Senate could propose changing the rules to a simple majority of 50 votes to prevent Democrats from being able to stop the vote with a filibuster,” the survey asked.

Sixty-nine percent of respondents were opposed to the change, compared to 26 percent in favor. Four percent didn’t know or declined to state an opinion. 

The process of changing precedent on vote thresholds to limit debate on high court nominees — expanding on changes pushed through by Senate Democrats in 2013 — appears very much on the table if Democrats seek to block confirmation of 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch.

Perhaps not coincidentally, 69 percent of voters surveyed also said they were supporters of abortion rights and had concerns about the nominee’s views on the subject, even before Trump made the nomination.

A small majority, 52 percent of respondents, said they thought it was very or somewhat likely that a Supreme Court with a justice nominated by Trump would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Roughly three-quarters of Democrats and Republicans surveyed in the days leading up to President Donald Trump’s nomination of Gorsuch said they understood that Trump’s decision “will have a real impact on the country’s future.”

The poll also found some 78 percent of those surveyed would be opposed to a nominee who supported loose restrictions on campaign speech by corporations and other entities. Gorsuch is generally viewed as favoring a broad reading of the First Amendment in such matters.

The poll surveyed 601 likely November 2018 voters by telephone, 50 percent of whom were reached by cell phone, from Jan. 27-31. It has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Gorsuch has started meeting with senators. Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa has said he expects the confirmation process to take roughly six weeks, with a goal of seating Trump’s nominee before the Senate is scheduled to take a two-week break for the Easter recess.

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