A full 44% of Americans believe the Senate should confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court while only 18% oppose it and 38% are unsure, making Jackson a less polarizing figure than some other recent nominees, according to a Pew Research Center study published Thursday, just four days before Senate hearings considering Jackson’s nomination are set to begin.
Pew found 20% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents believed Jackson should be confirmed, compared to 66% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents—a less dramatic split than that around Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation in 2018, which was supported by 73% of Republicans and 16% of Democrats.
There was also relatively little partisan division on Jackson’s qualifications—54% of Republicans said they saw Jackson as about as qualified as other recent Supreme Court nominees, compared to 61% of Democrats.
The historical significance of having a Black woman on the Supreme Court was a more divisive issue: Among Republicans, 5% said it would be extremely important, 11% said it would be very important, 24% said it would be somewhat important, 22% said it would be not too important and 37% said it would not be at all important—while, among Democrats, 40% said it would be extremely important, 28% said it would be very important, 21% said it would be somewhat important, 4% said it would be not too important and 6% said it would not be at all important.
People who had heard more about Jackson were more likely to favor her for the Supreme Court—67% of people who had heard a lot about Jackson’s nomination supported her confirmation and 53% who had heard a little supported her confirmation, while 11% who had heard nothing at all supported her confirmation.
Typically, more people approve of new Supreme Court nominees than disapprove—41% of Americans supported Kavanaugh’s confirmation while 36% opposed it, 44% supported Neil Gorsuch’s 2017 confirmation while 32% opposed it, 46% supported Merrick Garland’s unsuccessful bid for confirmation in 2016 while 30% opposed it, 33% supported Elena Kagan’s 2010 confirmation while 21% opposed it and 50% supported Sonia Sotomayor’s 2009 confirmation while 25% opposed it, Pew found.
Pew surveyed U.S. adults regarding Jackson’s nomination from March 7-13.
In recent years, Pew has found declining public approval for the Supreme Court, which is increasingly seen as too powerful and as conservative. This perception could shift with the possible confirmation of Jackson, a left-leaning U.S. Court of Appeals judge who once represented a Guantanamo Bay detainee and who in 2019 struck down former President Donald Trump’s attempts to evade Congressional subpoenas while bluntly noting that “presidents are not kings.” As well as becoming the first Black woman on the Supreme Court if confirmed, Jackson would be the second youngest justice after 50-year-old Amy Coney Barrett. Jackson is set to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday, where she will likely face questions on her past judicial decisions and her work as an attorney. Democratic legislators hope to confirm Jackson ahead of a Senate recess beginning April 8.
Some of Jackson’s critics have characterized her as soft on crime. Wednesday, Senate Judiciary Committee member Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), in a string of tweets, accused Jackson of an “alarming” unwillingness to imprison child predators, referring to a series of Jackson’s sentencing decisions that Hawley said fell well below recommended guidelines. White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates dismissed Hawley’s claims as “toxic and weakly presented misinformation,” and Senate Judiciary Committee chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) suggested he was concerned whether the committee would treat Jackson fairly.
“Supreme Court Increasingly Seen As Conservative And Too Powerful, Poll Finds” (Forbes)