President Donald Trump’s disapproval rating throughout the pandemic has steadily grown, with 56.5% of Americans indicating disapproval of his handling of the virus and only 40.1% approving.
Polls show Trump trailing overall behind Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, and filling the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat might be the key to shifting the vote in his favor.
A poll conducted by Pew Research in 2016 indicated that 65% of voters said a Supreme Court appointment was a very important factor in their decision to choose a candidate. If the Senate does not confirm a Supreme Court Justice ahead of Election Day, voters will vote with the vacancy in mind.
The empty seat will also be a bigger advantage for Trump than for Biden.
In 2016, 26% of all Trump voters polled by The Washington Post said the Supreme Court was the basis of their vote. In an exit poll conducted by CNN, one in five Trump voters said the most important factor in their decision to vote for Trump that year was based on Supreme Court appointments. (RELATED: Here’s How Trump’s Potential SCOTUS Pick Could Make His Obama-Era Regulatory Rollbacks Permanent)
Ralph Reed who leads the Faith and Freedom Coalition told supporters at an event Sept. 19 that the vacant seat is paramount this election season, according to The New York Times (NYT).
“Not only is the presidency on the ballot, but the future of the Supreme Court for a generation is on the ballot,” Reed said.
The current partisan lines of the Supreme Court are drawn between five justices nominated by Republican presidents and three justices nominated by Democratic presidents. The next Supreme Court Justice could very well ensure that future rulings lean politically one way consistently.
However, Trump’s chances of using the vacant seat to win over voters hinges on who Trump nominates to fill the vacancy.
Following allegations of sexual assault against then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s approval rating among voters who leaned liberal dropped by eight points, according to The Hill. Kavanaugh was also the least liked Supreme Court nominee since 1987, according to CNN.
Among Trump’s potential picks includes Amy Coney Barrett, a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge. While Trump has yet to say for sure who he will be picking, all eyes are on Barrett. Barrett is seemingly popular among more religious voters due to her personal religious convictions.
“She is the perfect combination of brilliant jurist and a woman who brings the argument to the court that is potentially the contrary to the views of the sitting women justices,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion political group said, according to the NYT.
However, Barrett’s nomination could potentially be polarizing.
“Amy Coney Barrett meets Donald Trump’s two main litmus tests: She has made clear she would invalidate the A.C.A. and take health care away from millions of people and undermine a woman’s reproductive freedom,” Nan Aron, president of a liberal group Alliance for Justice said per the same report.
Further, a poll conducted by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist shows that nearly three-quarters of Americans want to keep abortion legal. Of the roughly 77% of those who believe the Supreme Court should uphold Roe v. Wade, 26% said they want to see more restrictions while 21% said they want to see abortion expanded.
Speaking at Jacksonville University in 2016, Barrett didn’t say whether she would support eradicating abortion.
“I don’t think that abortion, or the right to abortion would change. I think some of the restrictions would change,” she said, according to Newsweek. “States have imposed regulations on abortion clinics, and I think the question is, ‘How much freedom the court is willing to let states have in regulating abortion?’ ”
“I don’t think the core case, Roe’s core holding that, you know, women have a right to an abortion, I don’t think would change,” she continued. “But I think the question of whether people can get very late-term abortions, how many restrictions can be put on clinics, I think that would change.”
A recent poll by EWTN News/RealClear Opinion conducted prior to Ginsburg’s death also shows Biden leads Trump by 12 points among Catholic voters. Further, the poll shows 50% of participants voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, while only 45% voted for Trump, indicating the gap has significantly widened this election season.
Filling the seat could be a catalyst in the election as Trump has seen his approval ratings drop during the pandemic. For voters on the edge, a Supreme Court seat could make all the difference.
“A vote for Trump will mean that I need to work even harder for fair wages, environmental issues, penal reform, immigrant care and other social concerns, but it also means that we get the opportunity to get things right on abortion,” Jeannie French, a Catholic voter from Pennsylvania and a member of Democrats for Life group told the Associated Press (AP) in an email. “For this Catholic, it might just be the right call.”