President Barack Obama officially put forward a Supreme Court nominee on Wednesday to fill the vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia, escalating a battle with Senate Republicans who vow to continue ignoring any Obama nominee.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was quick to respond, reaffirming the party's intention to withhold hearings until next year.
“The American people may well elect a president who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration," he told the press Wednesday. "The next president may also nominate someone very different. Either way, our view is this: Give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy."
Recent polls however, show that Americans largely disagree with that stance and -- with some variation -- say they want the Senate to hold hearings and consider Obama's nominee.
According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in early March, 63 percent of Americans agree, 44 percent strongly, that the Senate should hold hearings and vote on a nominee. Thirty-two percent disagree and say the Senate should not hold hearings.
Similarly, a recent NBC/WSJ poll finds that 55 percent of voters disapprove of the Senate's decision to "not consider" an Obama nominee, with 45 percent saying they strongly disapprove. Just 28 percent said they approve.
A plurality of respondents in the NBC/WSJ poll -- 48 percent -- say that the Senate should vote on a Scalia replacement this year. A minority of 37 percent think they should leave the position vacant and wait until next year.
A YouGov/Economist poll found slightly less support, with 49 percent of Americans saying the Senate should hold hearings. One-fifth say they should not hold hearings, and one-sixth say the decision should depend on who the nominee is.
Although the polls do exhibit some variation -- likely because of differences in question wording -- a clear picture does emerge: Americans want Senate Republicans to hold hearings, whether the legislators approve of a nominee or not.
Despite an overall consensus on the issue, polls also show a clear divide along party lines. Over half of Republicans in the NBC/WSJ poll support leaving the seat open and not considering any nominations, a decision nearly 8 in 10 Democrats disapprove of.
Republican leadership is counting on the partisan support to carry out their plan and benefit from it come election time. Last week Politico reported the GOP leaders were circulating a poll that showed Republicans were more worried about a liberal justice being chosen than about the seat remaining open until next year.
However, Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, is considered to be a moderate choice who has a history of Republican support and a resume that could appeal to many conservatives.
Furthermore, other polling conducted in the last several weeks disputes that a decision to refuse nomination hearings would be politically advantageous for Republicans in November.
A Quinnipiac poll finds a majority of voters in the swing state of Ohio, where Sen. Rob Portman (R) is up for re-election and currently trailing against his Democratic rival, want the Senate to hold hearings.
The Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling also finds that a majority of voters in other swing states where Republicans are up for re-election approve of hearings.