US voters 'prefer election winner to appoint next justice'

Judge Amy Coney Barrett was announced as the nominee to Supreme Court by US President Donald Trump.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett was announced as the nominee to Supreme Court by US President Donald Trump.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • A clear majority of voters in the United States believe the winner of the presidential election should fill the Supreme Court seat left open by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times and Siena College.

In a survey of likely voters taken in the week leading up to Mr Trump's nomination last Saturday of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the High Court, 56 per cent said they preferred to have the election act as a sort of referendum on the vacancy.

Only 41 per cent said they wanted Mr Trump to choose a justice before November.

More strikingly, the voters that Mr Trump and endangered Senate Republicans must reclaim to close the gap in the polls are even more opposed to a hasty pick: 62 per cent of women, 63 per cent of independents and 60 per cent of college-educated white voters said they wanted the winner of the campaign to appoint the next justice.

The warning signs for Republicans are also stark on the issue of abortion, on which Mrs Barrett, a fiercely conservative jurist, could offer a pivotal vote should she be confirmed: 60 per cent of those surveyed believe abortion should be legal all or some of the time.

The poll suggests Mr Trump would reap little political benefit from a clash over abortion rights: 56 per cent said they would be less likely to vote for him if his justice would help overturn the abortion vote, while just 24 per cent said they would be more inclined to vote for him.

The survey also indicates that Mr Trump has not established a clear upper hand over his Democratic rival Joe Biden on any of the most important issues of the campaign.

The poll had a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points.

Judge Ginsburg's death has jolted Washington just weeks before the election, heralding the possibility of an enduring conservative majority on the Supreme Court.


Mr Biden and fellow Democrats made it clear on Sunday that their opposition to Mr Trump's Supreme Court pick would focus on the possibility that Mrs Barrett could cast a decisive vote to strike down the Obamacare health law.

With Republicans controlling the Senate, Democrats have little leverage to stop a quick vote on Mrs Barrett before the election and almost no hope of preventing her confirmation.

Mrs Barrett could be on the court's bench for oral arguments on Nov 10, in a case in which Mr Trump and his Republican allies are seeking to invalidate the Affordable Care Act - the 2010 law popularly known Obamacare. That could cost millions of Americans their healthcare coverage.

Mr Biden said: "The clear focus is: This is about your healthcare... This is about whether or not pre-existing conditions will continue to be covered. This is about whether or not a woman can be charged more for the same procedure as a man. This is about people's healthcare in the middle of a pandemic."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2020, with the headline 'US voters 'prefer election winner to appoint next justice''. Print Edition | Subscribe