Pew poll: Supreme Court is ‘most important’ issue for midterms

September 28, 2018

Seventy-six percent of registered voters—both Democrats and Republicans—say that Supreme Court appointments are “very important” to their votes in the midterms, according to findings of a  Pew Research Center poll released on September 26.

According to Pew, the result marks the first time since August 2004 that the economy has not been the issue most often deemed “very important” to voters. Indeed, the economy has routinely been the top-cited “very important” factor for voters, almost always followed by healthcare and terrorism.

The poll was conducted between September 18 and 24—a time when news reports were dominated by allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh—which may have boosted the court’s standing in the eyes of voters, the researchers said.

Another three-quarters of registered voters say that healthcare is “very important” in the latest Pew poll, followed by 74% for the economy, 68% for gun policy, 67% for Medicare, 66% for Social Security, 66% for taxes, 65% for immigration, 65% for the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities, 63% for the environment, 62% for terrorism, 60% for the federal budget deficit, 55% for trade policy, 53% for abortion, 53% for drug addition; and 47% for the treatment of gay, lesbian, and transgender people.

Pew made the distinction that its pollsters do not “usually” ask about the Supreme Court in these surveys. The only other time Pew has added Supreme Court appointments into the mix of issues was in June 2016, when 63% said it was very important to their vote in November, compared to the 76% now.

The reason: In June 2016, President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland had been waiting three months for the Senate to review his nomination. No hearings were held before Obama left office in January 2017.

More Democrats (81%) view Supreme Court appointments as an important issue for their vote than Republicans (72%). The most-referenced important issue for Republicans was the economy, which drew 85% of their registered voters. Eighty-eight percent of Democrats said that healthcare was the issue most on their minds, while 60% of Republicans agreed.

Research contact: bjohnson@pewresearch.org

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