Most swing-state voters think Trump should not fill Supreme Court vacancy if he loses 2020 election, new poll finds

  • Most voters in six 2020 election swing states said President Trump should not be able to pick a Supreme Court nominee if he loses in November, according to a CNBC/Change Research poll. 
  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death has left a seat on the top U.S. court vacant a month and a half before the 2020 presidential election, and Republicans are moving quickly to fill her seat. 
  • A larger share of Democratic than Republican voters listed the court nomination as an important factor in their votes, while respondents narrowly chose Joe Biden as better equipped to pick a justice than Trump.

Republicans aim to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death before the end of President Donald Trump's first term. 

But most voters in six 2020 swing states want the winner of November's presidential election to name the next member of the top U.S. court, according to a CNBC/Change Research poll released Tuesday. 

In the pivotal states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, 43% of likely voters said Trump should be able to fill the court seat even if he loses this year, the survey found. A 52% majority responded that the incumbent should not get to nominate a justice if he falls short against Democrat Joe Biden. 

Only 37% of voters nationally think Trump should be able to nominate a justice if he loses, while 57% believe he should not. 

The swing-state poll surveyed 3,018 likely voters from Friday to Sunday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.8 percentage points. The national poll surveyed 1,430 likely voters from Friday to Sunday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

Ginsburg, a liberal stalwart and the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, died Friday at age 87. In an already fraught election year, the chance to fill a lifetime appointment on the top U.S. court has injected more venom into the process. 

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the chamber would vote on a Trump nominee by the end of the year. Democrats have cried foul as the GOP pushes to swiftly fill the vacancy, noting that Republicans refused to hold hearings on former President Barack Obama's nominee Merrick Garland during the 2016 election. At the time, the GOP said the next president should choose a justice. 

The CNBC/Change polls suggest voters have reservations about Trump filling the seat if he does not win another term in office. Respondents in the six swing states — three of which in Arizona, Michigan and North Carolina will decide whether to keep an incumbent senator in office this year — had broadly different views on whether Trump should be able to nominate a justice if he loses. 

  • Arizona: 38% said he should, 53% said he should not
  • Florida: 43% should, 53% should not 
  • Michigan: 40% should, 57% should not 
  • North Carolina: 47% should, 48% should not
  • Pennsylvania: 43% should, 52% should not
  • Wisconsin: 42% should, 53% should not 

Overall, 85% of voters in swing states said the next Supreme Court justice is at least a somewhat important consideration in their votes. But Democrats appeared to put a greater emphasis on the judicial nomination than Republicans did. 

About three-quarters of Democratic and Democratic-leaning respondents, 74%, said the Supreme Court nominee was either the single most important factor or a very important consideration in their votes for president. Sixty-three percent of Republican and GOP-leaning voters said the same. 

By a narrow 51% to 49% margin, swing-state voters also said they believe Biden and Democrats would do a better job picking the next Supreme Court justice than Trump and Republicans. 

Trump said Monday he could name his court pick by the weekend. In the coming weeks, senators could have to decide whether to move forward with the nomination. 

Two Republicans out of 53 GOP senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have said they will oppose a Supreme Court nomination before the election. 

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