Brett Kavanaugh Is On Track To Be A Historically Unpopular Supreme Court Justice

The nominee has the votes he needs in the Senate, but he's underwater in public opinion.

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has, however narrowly, the support he needs in the Senate to be confirmed Saturday.

Outside the Capitol, however, Kavanaugh has attracted a level of opposition unmatched by other recent nominees, polling shows.

In Gallup’s latest survey, released Wednesday, 45 percent of Americans polled said they would not like to see the Senate vote in Kavanaugh’s favor ― roughly equivalent to the 43 percent who opposed George W. Bush’s failed nominee, Harriet Miers. No other nominees, dating back to failed Ronald Reagan nominee Robert Bork in 1987, saw more than 40 percent opposition in Gallup polls.

Fox News, which has polling on nominees starting with John Roberts in 2005, found Kavanaugh was the first to hit 50 percent opposition among registered voters. The second-most unpopular was President Donald Trump’s nominee Neil Gorsuch, who saw 39 percent opposition. NBC/Wall Street Journal polling, which also goes back to Roberts, put opposition to Kavanaugh at 38 percent in mid-September, compared with a previous high of 30 percent for Sonia Sotomayor. Support for Kavanaugh was at 34 percent — the first time in the NBC/Wall Street Journal polls’ history that a nominee was underwater.

Even before he faced accusations of sexual misconduct, Kavanaugh was on shakier ground than past nominees. He started off with unusually poor numbers and little bipartisan support and saw his numbers only drop from there.

Although the allegations against him certainly did nothing to help his standing, the degree to which they harmed him was never entirely clear in the polls. As the charts below suggest, the trendlines for Kavanaugh’s support varied widely among surveys. Some ― including Gallup and HuffPost/YouGov polling ― found his numbers remaining largely stable, while others ― including Quinnipiac and Ipsos/Reuters surveys ― charted a significant decline.

  • Gallup
  • HuffPost/YouGov
  • Marist/NPR/PBS NewsHour
  • Politico/Morning Consult
  • Quinnipiac
  • YouGov/Economist
  • Ipsos/Reuters

“No prior nominee has been as politically polarizing as Kavanaugh, and that pattern was well-established long before sexual assault allegations against him surfaced,” Gallup’s Jeffrey M. Jones wrote. But, he noted, “in an era where nominees can be confirmed with a simple majority vote, the division of opinion on Kavanaugh nationally may matter less than his maintaining widespread support from Republicans.”