New Marquette Law School Poll finds shifts in Wisconsin public opinion favorable to President Trump on impeachment and presidential election preferences

MILWAUKEE – Even as hearings that could lead to President Donald Trump’s impeachment heat up, a new Marquette University Law School poll of Wisconsin registered voters finds consistent, if sometimes modest, shifts in public opinion away from support of impeachment and toward supporting Trump in next year’s presidential election 

For example, Trump holds small leads over each of four top Democratic candidates for president in head-to-head matchups in the new survey, while three of the Democrats held small leads over Trump in the previous poll.

While the shifts in opinion on both impeachment and presidential preferences are not large, they are consistent across multiple questions in the poll. That includes increases in support for Trump’s work on foreign policy and the economy.

The poll was conducted Nov. 13-17, 2019. The sample included 801 registered voters in Wisconsin interviewed by cell phone or landline, with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points.

Opinions on impeachment overall

In the new poll, 40 percent of registered voters think that Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 53 percent do not think so and 6 percent say that they do not know.

In October, before public hearings began, 44 percent favored impeachment and removal from office, while 51 percent were opposed, and 4 percent said they didn’t know.

The November results also find that 52 percent say they believe Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Trump’s political rivals, while 29 percent believe Trump did not do this. Eighteen percent say they don’t know if Trump asked this or not.

Forty-one percent believe Trump withheld military aid to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate Trump’s political rivals, while 38 percent do not believe Trump did this and 21 percent say they don’t know.

Forty-two percent say that Trump did something seriously wrong in his dealings with Ukraine, 9 percent say he did something wrong but not seriously so, and 38 percent say Trump did nothing wrong. Eleven percent say they don’t know.

Views of impeachment by partisanship and attention to hearings

There are large partisan differences in views of impeachment, with Democrats much more supportive and Republicans much more opposed, and a plurality of independents opposed. Comparing the October and November polls, support for impeachment and removal declined slightly among Democrats, and opposition to removal rose slightly among Republicans. “Don’t know” responses rose among independents and Democrats and barely declined among Republicans.

Table 1: Impeach and remove Trump from office by party identification, November

  Impeach & remove Don’t think so Don’t know
Republican 4 94 2
Lean Republican 7 92 1
Independent 36 47 15
Lean Democrat 73 20 8
Democrat 81 11 7

Table 2: Impeach and remove Trump from office by party identification, October

  Impeach & remove Don’t think so Don’t know
Republican 6 92 2
Lean Republican 9 88 3
Independent 33 55 10
Lean Democrat 78 16 6
Democrat 88 8 3

Partisans are reacting differently to the testimony and other evidence, with Democrats much more likely than Republicans to say that Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate his political rivals. Opinion among independents tends to fall in between the results in the partisan groups.

Table 3: Did Trump ask for investigation of political rivals?

  Yes, did ask No, did not ask Don’t know
Republican 29 51 20
Lean Republican 29 53 17
Independent 41 24 33
Lean Democrat 81 8 10
Democrat 80 8 12

While about 3 in 10 Republicans thus think that Trump asked for an investigation (Table 3), only about 1 in 10 Republicans think Trump withheld military aid to pressure the Ukrainian president into an investigation (Table 4, below). Eight in 10 Democrats believe Trump asked for an investigation, and 3 in 4 think that he withheld aid to exert pressure for an investigation. Forty-one percent of independents think Trump asked for an investigation, while 30 percent think he withheld aid as pressure. Independents are the most likely group to say they don’t know if Trump did either of these things, with 33 percent saying they don’t know whether he asked for an investigation and 41 percent saying they don’t know whether he withheld aid.

Table 4: Did Trump withhold aid to pressure Ukraine for investigation of political rivals?

  Yes, held up aid No, did not hold up aid Don’t know
Republican 8 70 21
Lean Republican 11 70 19
Independent 30 26 41
Lean Democrat 75 10 15
Democrat 77 7 16

Thirty-two percent of all registered voters say that they are following the news and testimony in the impeachment hearings very closely, with another 33 percent saying they are following fairly closely. Twenty percent are not following too closely, and 14 percent are following not at all closely.

There are no statistically significant differences in attention to the hearings by partisanship, although independents are more likely to say they are not following closely at all.

Table 5: Attention to hearings by party identification

  Very closely Fairly closely Not too closely Not at all closely
Republican 33 36 18 12
Lean Republican 29 34 20 16
Independent 20 26 25 28
Lean Democrat 32 34 21 14
Democrat 39 30 19 11

Those who are following the hearings most closely are much more likely to have an opinion about the evidence than are those not paying close attention. Of those paying very close attention, 61 percent say that Trump asked for an investigation, 33 percent say he did not ask, and only 5 percent say they don’t know. By contrast among those not following the hearings at all closely, 34 percent say Trump asked, 23 percent say he did not ask, and 41 percent say they don’t know.

Table 6: Did Trump ask for investigation of political rivals? By attention to hearings

  Yes, did ask No, did not ask Don’t know
Very closely 61 33 5
Fairly closely 56 30 13
Not too closely 46 26 28
Not at all closely 34 23 41

A similar pattern holds with attention and opinion on whether Trump withheld aid to pressure Ukraine for an investigation. Both the percentage saying he did do this and the percentage saying he did not are higher among the most attentive, and both percentages are lower among the least attentive. Among the most attentive, only 4 percent say they don’t know, while over half of the least attentive say they don’t know.

Table 7: Did Trump withhold aid to pressure Ukraine for investigation of political rivals? By attention to hearings

  Yes, held up aid No, did not hold up aid Don’t know
Very closely 51 45 4
Fairly closely 46 40 13
Not too closely 32 35 34
Not at all closely 20 23 55

General election matchups

Wisconsin voters were asked whom they would support as of now in the presidential election, Trump or each of four leading candidates for the Democratic nomination. Trump has 3-point leads over former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 5-point margin over Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and an 8-point lead over Mayor Pete Buttigieg. In October, Biden, Sanders, and Warren had small leads and Buttigieg trailed by 2 percentage points.

A summary of the general election results in this November poll is shown in Table 8. For comparison, the October results are shown in Table 9 and the August results in Table 10. In August, Trump was tested against Sen. Kamala Harris rather than Buttigieg.

Table 8: November General Election Matchups

Matchup Pct Matchup Pct Matchup Pct Matchup Pct
Biden 44 Sanders 45 Warren 43 Buttigieg 39
Trump 47 Trump 48 Trump 48 Trump 47
Neither 5 Neither 5 Neither 4 Neither 6
Don’t know 2 Don’t know 2 Don’t know 4 Don’t know 7

Table 9: October General Election Matchups

Matchup Pct Matchup Pct Matchup Pct Matchup Pct
Biden 50 Sanders 48 Warren 47 Buttigieg 43
Trump 44 Trump 46 Trump 46 Trump 45
Neither 3 Neither 4 Neither 4 Neither 5
Don’t know 3 Don’t know 2 Don’t know 2 Don’t know 7

Table 10: August General Election Matchups

Matchup Pct Matchup Pct Matchup Pct Matchup Pct
Biden 51 Sanders 48 Warren 45 Harris 44
Trump 42 Trump 44 Trump 45 Trump 44
Neither 4 Neither 5 Neither 5 Neither 6
Don’t know 2 Don’t know 2 Don’t know 5 Don’t know 6

In the new poll, two additional general election matchups tested Trump against Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Cory Booker. Each of these was asked of half the polling sample, and they have a margin of error of 5.7 and 5.8 percent, respectively. While the half-samples were selected randomly, the half with Booker versus Trump has significantly more younger voters than the half with Klobuchar. Sanders also does better in the Booker half-sample, although no other candidates do significantly better in either half-sample.

Table 11: General Election Matches

Match Pct Match Pct
Klobuchar 36 Booker 45
Trump 50 Trump 44
Neither 7 Neither 4
Don’t know 5 Don’t know 5

Vote by party identification, November vs. October

None of the shifts in vote preference between October and November reaches statistical significance. The shifts in the balance of the vote are largely due to slightly greater partisan loyalty among Republicans and slightly lower loyalty among Democrats. The party balance between October and November samples was unchanged, with 45 percent identifying themselves as Republican or leaning Republican and 44 percent identifying themselves as Democrat or leaning Democrat in each month.

Democratic presidential primary candidates

Table 16: First and second choice in Democratic primary (among Democratic primary voters)
Response First Choice Second Choice  
Joe Biden 30 15  
Bernie Sanders 17 18  
Elizabeth Warren 15 19  
Pete Buttigieg 13 10  
Cory Booker 3 3  
Amy Klobuchar 3 8  
Kamala Harris 2 4  
Andrew Yang 2 2  
Tom Steyer 1 1  
Marianne Williamson 1 0  
Steve Bullock 1 0  
Michael Bennet 0 0  
Julián Castro 0 0  
John Delaney 0 1  
Someone else (VOL) 1 1  
Would not vote (VOL) 1 0  
Don’t know 10 10  
Refused 1 1  

Democratic presidential primary preference items were asked of those who said that they will vote in the Democratic primary in April. That sample size is 340, with a margin of error of +/-6.4 percentage points.

Among those who say they will vote in the Democratic primary, Biden receives the most support. Biden is the first choice of 30 percent, followed by Sanders at 17 percent, Warren at 15 percent, and Pete Buttigieg at 13 percent. Booker and Klobuchar receive 3 percent each. Harris and Yang are the top choices of 2 percent each, while all other candidates receive 1 percent or less.

The complete results for the Democratic primary are shown in Table 16.

Almost two-thirds of Democratic primary voters, 62 percent, say they might change their minds about their primary choice, while 37 percent say their mind is made up.

Table 17: Favorability ratings of six candidates among Democratic primary sample

  Favorable Unfavorable Haven’t heard enough Don’t know
Joe Biden 67 20 6 6
Bernie Sanders 67 24 7 2
Elizabeth Warren 56 19 21 4
Pete Buttigieg 45 11 37 7
Cory Booker 36 14 39 11
Amy Klobuchar 27 16 45 12

Among the Democratic primary sample, favorability of candidates is shown in Table 17.

Trump job approval

Forty-seven percent of registered voters approve of the job Trump is doing as president, with 51 percent disapproving. That is little changed from October, when 46 percent approved and 51 percent disapproved.

Fifty-five percent of those polled approve of Trump’s handling of the economy, while 43 percent disapprove. In October, 51 percent approved and 45 percent disapproved.

Forty-four percent of those polled approve of Trump’s handling of foreign policy, while 52 percent disapprove. In October, 37 percent approved and 59 percent disapproved.

Thirty-seven percent say that Trump’s foreign policies have helped America’s standing in the world, while 53 percent say his policies have hurt the standing of the country.

Twenty percent say that the decision to remove most U.S. troops from Syria strengthens the United States, while 38 percent say this weakens the country and 34 percent say it doesn’t make much difference. An additional 8 percent say they don’t know.

Economic outlook and issues

Wisconsin registered voters hold a positive view of the recent performance of the economy, with 42 percent saying the economy has improved over the past year, 18 percent saying it has worsened, and 37 percent saying it has stayed the same. In October, 41 percent said the economy had improved, 20 percent said it had worsened, and 36 percent said it has stayed the same.

Looking ahead to the next year, 35 percent say the economy will improve, while 24 percent think it will get worse and 37 percent say it will remain the same. That reverses the more negative outlook in October, when 25 percent said the economy would improve, 30 percent said it would worsen, and 39 percent said it would remain the same.

Chronic wasting disease

Deer hunters in Wisconsin are more aware than are non-hunters of chronic wasting disease, which affects deer through much of the state.

Table 18: Awareness of CWD by hunter or non-hunter

  A lot Some Not much Nothing at all
Deer hunter 59 30 7 3
Not deer hunter 25 36 20 16

A majority of hunters approve of the job the Department of Natural Resources is doing handling CWD. A plurality of non-hunters also approve, but non-hunters are more than twice as likely as hunters to say they don’t know how DNR is doing in addressing CWD.

Table 19: Approve DNR handling of CWD by hunter or non-hunter

  Approve Disapprove Don’t know
Deer hunter 56 29 15
Not deer hunter 45 16 38

Hunters and non-hunters alike see CWD as a threat to the future of deer hunting in Wisconsin.

Table 20: See CWD as threat to future of deer hunting by hunter or non-hunter

  Yes No Don’t know
Deer hunter 65 31 4
Not deer hunter 62 18 19

Opinion of the governor and legislature

Governor Tony Evers’ job approval stands at 47 percent, with disapproval at 42. Ten percent say they don’t have an opinion. In October, 52 percent approved, 34 percent disapproved, and 13 percent lacked an opinion.

Approval of the job the Wisconsin legislature is doing is 48 percent and disapproval is 39 percent, with 13 percent saying they don’t know. When last asked in August, 52 percent approved, 38 percent disapproved, and 8 percent lacked an opinion.

On Nov. 5, the state Senate voted to reject Evers’ nominee for secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Twenty-two percent say rejecting the nominee was the right thing for the Senate to do, 25 percent say it was the wrong thing to do, and 47 percent said they haven’t heard anything about this. An additional 6 percent say they don’t have an opinion.

Favorability rating of elected officials

Table 21 presents the favorability ratings of elected officials in Wisconsin and the percentage of respondents who haven’t heard enough or say they don’t know.

Table 21: Favorability ratings of elected officials

  Favorable Unfavorable Haven’t heard enough Don’t know
Donald Trump 46 50 2 1
Tony Evers 43 41 12 3
Ron Johnson 39 29 24 7
Tammy Baldwin 39 43 12 5

About the Marquette Law School Poll

The Marquette Law School Poll is the most extensive statewide polling project in Wisconsin history. This poll interviewed 801 registered Wisconsin voters by landline or cell phone, Nov. 13-17, 2019. The margin of error is +/-4.1 percentage points for the full sample.

The Democratic presidential candidate preference items were asked of Democrats, independents who lean Democratic, and independents who do not lean to either party. That sample size is 340 with a margin of error of +/-6.4 percentage points.

Two presidential matchup questions were asked of half-samples. Klobuchar vs. Trump was asked of 400 respondents, with a margin of error of +/- 5.7 percentage points. Booker vs. Trump was asked of 401 respondents, with a margin of error of +/- 5.8 percentage points.

The partisan makeup of the sample, including those who lean to a party, is 45 percent Republican, 44 percent Democratic, and 10 percent independent. The partisan makeup of the sample, excluding those who lean to a party, is 28 percent Republican, 28 percent Democratic, and 42 percent independent.

Since January 2017, the long-term partisan balance, including those who lean to a party, in the Marquette poll has been 45 percent Republican and 45 percent Democratic, with 9 percent independent. Partisanship, excluding those who lean, has been 30 percent Republican and 29 percent Democratic, with 40 percent independent.

The entire questionnaire, methodology statement, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at law.marquette.edu/poll/results-and-data.

New Marquette Law School Poll finds increased support for Trump impeachment hearings since the spring, while opinions about Trump have changed little

MILWAUKEE – A new Marquette Law School poll of Wisconsin registered voters finds that 46 percent think that there is enough cause now for Congress to hold hearings on impeachment of President Donald Trump, while 49 percent say there is not enough cause and 5 percent say they do not know.

In April 2019, 29 percent said there was sufficient reason for impeachment hearings and 65 percent said there was not. The April poll was completed after Attorney General William Barr’s letter describing the Mueller report but before the report was publicly released. Earlier, in January 2019, 33 percent supported and 59 percent opposed hearings.

Table 1: Do you think there is or is not enough cause right now for Congress to hold hearings into whether President Trump should be impeached? (Jan-Apr wording: Do you think there is or is not enough cause right now for Congress to begin hearings into whether or not President Trump should be impeached?)

  Enough cause Not enough cause Don’t know
Jan. 16-20, 2019 33 59 8
April 3-7, 2019 29 65 6
Oct. 13-17, 2019 46 49 5

When asked if Trump should be impeached and removed from office, 44 percent say that Trump should be removed, 51 percent say he should not be impeached and removed and 4 percent say they don’t know. This question has not been asked in Marquette Law School polling before.

Twenty-three percent say it is proper for Trump to ask China and Ukraine to conduct investigations of U.S. citizens, while 67 percent say that it is improper and 8 percent say they don’t know or declined to answer. An additional 1 percent volunteered that they did not believe that Trump had asked China or Ukraine to conduct such an investigation.

The poll was conducted Oct. 13-17, 2019. The sample included 799 registered voters in Wisconsin interviewed by cell phone or landline, with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points. Democratic presidential candidate preference items were asked of respondents who said they would vote in the April Democratic presidential primary. That sample size is 379, with a margin of error of +/-6.3 percentage points.

Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s leader

Forty percent say they have read the rough transcript of Trump’s conversation with the president of Ukraine that the White House released, while 59 percent said they had not read the transcript.

Very similar percentages of Republicans and Democrats say they have read the conversation transcript, although independents are less likely to have read it, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Read Ukraine call transcript by party identification

  Yes, have read No, have not read
Republican 42 57
Lean Republican 42 57
Independent 26 74
Lean Democrat 43 57
Democrat 41 59

Among those who have read the transcript, 51 percent think there is enough reason to hold impeachment hearings, compared to 42 percent among those who have not read the transcript. Forty-six percent of those who have read the transcript think there is not enough reason to hold hearings, compared to 50 percent among those who have not read the transcript.

Table 3: Hold impeachment hearings by read Ukraine transcript or not

  Enough cause Not enough cause Don’t know
Yes, have read 51 46 2
No, have not read 42 50 7

The results are similar for opinion on impeachment and removal from office among those who have or have not read the transcript, as shown in Table 4.

Table 4: Impeach and remove from office by read Ukraine transcript or not

  Impeach & remove Don’t think so Don’t know
Yes, have read 50 47 2
No, have not read 40 54 6

Table 5 shows support for hearings by party identification, and Table 6 shows support for impeachment and removal from office by party identification.

Table 5: Enough cause for impeachment hearings by party identification

  Enough cause Not enough cause Don’t know
Republican 12 86 2
Lean Republican 15 77 8
Independent 35 53 7
Lean Democrat 77 15 8
Democrat 84 12 4

Table 6: Support for impeachment and removal by party identification

  Impeach & remove Don’t think so Don’t know
Republican 6 92 2
Lean Republican 9 88 3
Independent 33 55 10
Lean Democrat 78 16 6
Democrat 88 8 3

Trump’s handling of international affairs

In this survey, 37 percent approve and 59 percent disapprove of Trump’s handling of foreign policy, while 4 percent say they don’t know.

For comparison, Trump’s overall job approval stands at 46 percent approval and 51 percent disapproval, with 2 percent who don’t know. In the August Marquette Law School Poll, 45 percent approved and 53 percent disapproved of the president’s handling of his job.

This survey was conducted in the week following the announcement that the U.S. would withdraw its forces from northeastern Syria and the subsequent beginning of Turkish military operations on Oct. 9.

Asked if Trump’s foreign policies have helped or hurt America’s standing in the world, 32 percent say they have helped, while 58 percent say they have hurt. Two percent say they have not affected America’s standing, while 6 percent say they don’t know.

On Oct. 5, U.S. and North Korean talks on nuclear weapons were halted shortly after they had begun. Twenty-four percent of respondents say they believe that the U.S. and North Korea will reach an agreement on reducing nuclear weapons in the next year or two, while 66 percent say this will not happen and 10 percent say they don’t know.

Republicans give Trump higher approval on his handling of foreign policy than do independents or Democrats, as shown in Table 7. Republican approval on foreign policy is lower than Republican overall job approval, as shown in Table 8.

Table 7: Trump handling of foreign policy by party identification

  Approve Disapprove
Republican 77 19
Lean Republican 62 34
Independent 26 59
Lean Democrat 6 90
Democrat 3 97

Table 8: Trump overall job approval by party identification

  Approve Disapprove
Republican 91 8
Lean Republican 76 17
Independent 48 38
Lean Democrat 6 92
Democrat 2 96

Views of Trump

Respondents are evenly divided over whether Trump is keeping his campaign promises or not, as shown in Table 9 of results from Marquette Law School polls since Trump took office in 2017.

Table 9: Trump keeping campaign promises trend

  Yes, keeping promises No, not keeping promises
June 22-25, 2017 49 46
Feb. 25-March 1, 2018 50 46
Aug. 15-19, 2018 55 41
Aug. 25-29, 2019 48 48
Oct. 13-17, 2019 47 46

The degree to which “cares about people like me” describes Trump is shown in Table 10 for polls taken since 2017.

Table 10: Trump cares about people like me trend

  Describes Does not describe
March 13-16, 2017 40 55
June 22-25, 2017 40 55
Feb. 25-March 1, 2018 43 54
Aug. 15-19, 2018 39 57
Jan. 16-20, 2019 42 55
Aug. 25-29, 2019 40 56
Oct. 13-17, 2019 40 57

The trend for those saying Trump is someone who is honest is shown in Table 11. This question was not asked in 2018.

Table 11: Trump is someone who is honest

  Describes Does not describe
June 22-25, 2017 35 59
Jan. 16-20, 2019 31 62
April 3-7, 2019 35 59
Oct. 13-17, 2019 30 65

2020 presidential election preferences

This poll asked about four potential Democratic challengers to Trump in the 2020 presidential election, as shown in Table 12.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is favored by 50 percent and Trump by 44 percent, while 3 percent say they would not support either candidate and 3 percent say they don’t know. In August, Biden received 51 percent and Trump 42 percent.

Sen. Bernie Sanders receives 48 percent and Trump 46 percent, with 4 percent supporting neither and 2 percent who don’t know. In August, Sanders received 48 percent and Trump 44 percent.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the choice of 47 percent and Trump gets 46 percent, with 4 percent supporting neither and 2 percent saying they don’t know. In August, Warren received 45 percent and Trump 45 percent.

This is the first time the Marquette Law School Poll has matched Mayor Pete Buttigieg against Trump. Buttigieg is supported by 43 percent to Trump’s 45 percent, while 5 percent support neither and 7 percent say they don’t know.

Table 12: General Election Matches

Match Pct Match Pct Match Pct Match Pct
Biden 50 Sanders 48 Warren 47 Buttigieg 43
Trump 44 Trump 46 Trump 46 Trump 45
Neither 3 Neither 4 Neither 4 Neither 5
Don’t know 3 Don’t know 2 Don’t know 2 Don’t know 7
Table 13: First and second choice in Democratic primary (among those saying they will vote in the Democratic presidential primary).
Response First Choice Second Choice
Joe Biden 31 19
Elizabeth Warren 24 27
Bernie Sanders 17 13
Pete Buttigieg 7 10
Kamala Harris 5 9
Amy Klobuchar 3 4
Andrew Yang 3 2
Tulsi Gabbard 2 2
Cory Booker 1 4
Marianne Williamson 1 0
Tom Steyer 0 0
Beto O’Rourke 0 2
Steve Bullock 0 0
Michael Bennet 0 0
Julián Castro 0 0
John Delaney 0 0
Wayne Messam 0 0
Tim Ryan 0 0
Joe Sestak 0 0
Someone else (VOL) 1 1
Would not vote (VOL) 0 1
Don’t know 4 4
Refused 0 0

Democratic presidential primary

Among those who say they will vote in the Democratic presidential primary in April, Biden is the first choice of 31 percent, followed by Warren at 24 percent, Sanders at 17 percent and Pete Buttigieg at 7 percent. Sen. Kamala Harris receives 5 percent, while all other candidates receive 3 percent or less.

The complete results for the Democratic primary are shown in Table 13.

Among the Democratic primary sample, favorability of candidates is shown in Table 14.

Table 14: Favorability ratings of five candidates among Democratic primary sample

  Favorable Unfavorable Haven’t heard enough Don’t know
Joe Biden 67 18 10 4
Bernie Sanders 67 26 5 1
Elizabeth Warren 63 17 13 6
Kamala Harris 48 16 24 12
Pete Buttigieg 43 13 33 12

Economic outlook

Wisconsin registered voters hold a net positive view of the performance of the economy over the past 12 months, with 41 percent saying the economy has improved over the past year, 20 percent saying it has worsened and 36 percent saying it has stayed the same.

The outlook for the next year is net negative, with 25 percent saying the economy will improve, 30 percent saying it will get worse and 39 percent saying it will remain the same.

The outlook for the coming year among those polled in 2019 is less positive than it was among those polled in 2018, as more respondents see the prospect of a worsening economy. This poll is the third in 2019 that has seen net pessimism about the economic outlook.

In 2018, the average future outlook was 14.7 percent net positive while in 2019 the average outlook has been net negative at -3.5 percent.

The full results since February 2018 are shown in Table 15.

Table 15: Outlook for the economy over next year

Poll Date Get better Get worse Stay the same Don’t know Net
2018-03-01 37 20 38 5 17
2018-06-17 35 25 37 3 10
2018-08-19 38 25 31 5 13
2018-09-16 37 24 34 5 13
2018-10-07 42 20 32 7 22
2018-10-28 38 25 29 8 13
2019-01-20 29 34 30 6 -5
2019-04-07 34 27 34 5 7
2019-08-29 26 37 33 5 -11
2019-10-17 25 30 39 6 -5


Fifty-one percent of those polled approve of Trump’s handling of the economy, while 45 percent disapprove. In August, 49 percent approved and 50 percent disapproved.

State and national issues

A proposed mandatory buy-back of assault weapons from owners is opposed by 54 percent and supported by 42 percent, with 3 percent saying they don’t know. Those with a gun in the household tend to oppose such a policy while those without a gun in the household tend to support it, as shown in Table 16.

Table 16: Assault weapon buy-back opinion by gun in household

  Support Oppose
Gun 30 68
No gun 59 35

There are partisan differences in views of an assault-weapon buy-back policy, as shown in Table 17.

Table 17: Assault weapon buy-back opinion by party identification

  Support Oppose
Republican 13 83
Democrat 76 20
Independent 42 57

Proposals for changes to national health care programs include, among others, a national single-payer program and a public option that would compete with but not replace private insurance. The full wording of the questions, and the responses are shown in Tables 18 and 19.

Table 18: Do you support or oppose having a national health plan, sometimes called Medicare-for-all, in which all Americans would get their insurance from a single government plan?

Response Percent
Support 51
Oppose 42
Don’t know 7
Refused 1


Table 19: Do you support or oppose having a government-administered health plan, sometimes called a public option, that would compete with private health insurance plans and be available to all Americans?

Response Percent
Support 60
Oppose 32
Don’t know 6
Refused 1

A large majority (82 percent) of respondents said they had heard of Bernie Sanders’ heart attack, while 18 percent had not.

Respondents were asked about age as an issue in voting for president. Some were asked that question before being asked the question about Sanders’ heart attack and some after, but the order of questions made no statistically significant difference. Thirty-two percent say age matters in their choice for president, while 66 percent say age is unimportant as a consideration.

With deer season approaching, 40 percent say they have heard a lot about Chronic Wasting Disease, which afflicts the deer population, with 35 percent saying they have heard some, 13 percent saying they have not heard much and 11 percent saying they have heard nothing about CWD.

Twenty-seven percent think that CWD has been increasing in Wisconsin deer, 46 percent think it has remained about the same and 7 percent think it has been decreasing.

Among Wisconsin respondents, 38 percent say they or someone in their household is a deer hunter, while 62 say no one in the household hunts deer.

The survey notes that Wisconsin lost nearly 700 dairy farms in 2018. Sixty-three percent say the federal government should support small farms, while 30 percent say this is not the job of the federal government. There is no difference in response between those who farm or have family members who farm (61 percent) and those who do not have a farming connection (63 percent) in the percent favoring government support.

State of the state

Governor Tony Evers’ job approval stands at 52 percent, with disapproval at 34 percent. Thirteen percent say they don’t have an opinion. In August, 54 percent approved, 34 percent disapproved and 10 percent lacked an opinion.

Fifty-three percent of respondents say the state is headed in the right direction while 39 percent say it is on the wrong track. In August, 55 percent said the state was going in the right direction and 37 percent said it was on the wrong track.

Table 20 presents the favorability ratings of elected officials in Wisconsin and the percentage of respondents who haven’t heard enough or say they don’t know.

Table 20: Favorability ratings of elected officials

  Favorable Unfavorable Haven’t heard enough Don’t know
Tony Evers 47 35 13 5
Tammy Baldwin 46 39 11 3
Donald Trump 43 52 1 3
Ron Johnson 40 29 24 6

About the Marquette Law School Poll

The Marquette Law School Poll is the most extensive statewide polling project in Wisconsin history. This poll interviewed 799 registered Wisconsin voters by landline or cell phone, Oct. 13-17, 2019. The margin of error is +/-4.2 percentage points for the full sample.

The Democratic presidential candidate preference items were asked those who said they would vote in the April Democratic presidential primary. That sample size is 379 with a margin of error of +/-6.3 percentage points.

Two questions were asked of half the sample (Form A) and two were asked of the other half-sample (Form B). Questions on Form A have a sample size of 400 and a margin of error of +/- 6 percentage points. Questions on Form B have a sample size of 399 and a margin of error of +/- 5.9 percentage points.

Form A questions were right direction or wrong track for the state and Medicare for all as a single payer. Form B questions were an assault weapon buy-back law and an public option for medical coverage competing with private insurance plans

The partisan makeup of the sample, including those who lean to a party, is 45 percent Republican, 44 percent Democratic and 9 percent independent. The partisan makeup of the sample, excluding those who lean to a party, is 31 percent Republican, 29 percent Democratic and 40 percent independent.

Since January 2017, the long-term partisan balance, including those who lean to a party, in the Marquette Law Poll has been 45 percent Republican and 45 percent Democratic, with 9 percent independent. Partisanship excluding those who lean has been 30 percent Republican and 29 percent Democratic, with 40 percent independent. The entire questionnaire, methodology statement, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at law.marquette.edu/poll/results-and-data.

New nationwide Marquette Law School Poll finds confidence in U.S. Supreme Court overall, though more pronounced among conservatives

MILWAUKEE — A Marquette Law School Poll of voters nationwide provides wide-ranging measures of public understanding and opinion of the United States Supreme Court. Among the findings: A majority of respondents have more confidence in the Court than in other parts of the federal government; few see the Court as taking extremely liberal or extremely conservative positions, although views of the Court differ by partisanship; and a majority of the public opposes increasing the number of justices even as a majority supports limiting how long justices may serve.

Other findings include that while there is broad support for the Court as a whole, political conservatives are more favorable to the current make-up and decisions of the Court than liberals are. And majorities support some decisions or potential decisions involving abortion, gay rights, and banning semi-automatic rifles that are generally labeled liberal; at the same time, majorities favor decisions of the Court, including a right to possess firearms and allowance of public funds to support students in religious schools, that are generally considered conservative.

Awareness of the individual justices remains fairly low. Only 34 percent of those polled offered an opinion on at least five of the nine justices, and 28 percent had no opinion on any of them.

A majority of those polled said they want decisions to be nonpartisan and to be generally “fair.” A majority (57 percent) also said that they support the Court’s using “evolving” interpretations of the U.S. Constitution rather than interpretations based solely on the intent of the Constitution’s framers.

The survey was conducted Sept. 3-13, 2019; 1,423 adults were interviewed nationwide, with a margin of error of +/-3.6 percentage points.

Confidence in the Court and other institutions

Confidence in the Supreme Court is higher than that for other branches of the federal government and some other institutions. Confidence in the respondent’s state supreme court ranks second highest. Confidence in the presidency shows some polarization, with more very-low and very-high ratings, while Congress receives the lowest confidence rating.

Here is a list of institutions in American society. How much confidence do you have in each one?

  None Very little Some Quite a lot A great deal
U.S. Supreme Court 4 16 43 29 8
State Supreme Court 5 17 46 27 5
Presidency 25 22 25 15 13
Criminal Justice System 8 26 46 17 3
Congress 13 38 40 8 2

When respondents are asked to rank the three branches of the federal government, the Supreme Court inspires the most confidence by a substantial margin. This finding, consistent with much other public opinion research, points to the strength of the Court in the public mind in relation to the other branches of the federal government.

Of the three branches of U.S. government, which one do you trust the most?

Response Percent
The U.S. Supreme Court (the judicial branch) 57
The U.S. Congress (the legislative branch) 22
The Presidency (the executive branch) 21

Those who are more aware of the U.S. Supreme Court generally express greater confidence in it. Familiarity breeds support in the case of the Court. General attention to politics is associated with greater confidence. (In this table, “none” and “very little” confidence are combined as “low confidence,” and “quite a lot” and “a great deal” are combined as “high” confidence.)

Confidence in the Court by attention to politics

  Low Confidence Medium Confidence High Confidence
Low Attention 32 48 20
Medium Attention 17 46 37
High Attention 18 36 46

Partisanship and ideology are related to confidence in the Court. Independents have lower confidence than partisans, while Republicans have higher confidence than Democrats.

Confidence in the Court by party identification

  Low Medium High
Republican 14 32 54
Lean Republican 15 42 43
Independent 31 46 23
Lean Democrat 23 56 21
Democrat 21 44 34

High confidence in the Court is also associated with conservative ideology, whereas it is not as high among those with very liberal beliefs.

Confidence in the Court by liberal-conservative ideology

  Low Medium High
Very Conservative 13 36 52
Conservative 17 37 46
Moderate 21 46 34
Liberal 21 46 33
Very Liberal 36 34 31

Perceptions of the Supreme Court as moderate to conservative

The poll finds that, despite partisan battles over the U.S. Supreme Court in recent decades, the largest group, 50 percent, considers the Court to occupy a “moderate” position on the liberal-conservative continuum. Considerably more, 39 percent, consider the Court conservative than the 12 percent who consider it liberal. Few respondents see the Court as extreme in either ideological direction, with only 9 percent combined saying that it is either very conservative or very liberal.

In general, would you describe the U.S. Supreme Court as very conservative, conservative, moderate, liberal or very liberal?

Response Percent
Very conservative 6
Conservative 33
Moderate 50
Liberal 9
Very liberal 3

Those who pay the most attention to politics are more likely to see the Court as conservative or very conservative, with 41 percent saying that it is moderate. For the less attentive, majorities place the Court at the middle of the ideological scale.

Perceived ideology of the Court by attention to politics

  Very conservative Conservative Moderate Liberal Very liberal
Low 3 24 62 7 5
Medium 5 29 55 10 1
High 7 41 41 8 3

A majority of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic see the Court as conservative or very conservative. Independents and Republicans are much more likely to call the Court moderate, with about 60 percent of each of those two groups placing the Court at the middle on ideology. None of the partisan categories sees an especially extreme court, showing that the Court is seen as being to the middle, with the public view tilting a bit more one way or the other depending on attention to politics or partisanship.

Perceived ideology of the Court by party identification

  Very conservative Conservative Moderate Liberal Very liberal
Republican 4 23 58 11 3
Lean Republican 2 27 61 9 2
Independent 2 23 64 6 5
Lean Democrat 10 50 35 5 0
Democrat 8 42 38 9 2

While most people think the next appointment to the Court is important, one in five think that it is not too important or not at all important (combined as “not important” in tables below).

Importance of next court appointment

Response Percent
Not important 22
Somewhat 31
Very important 47

Those who pay the most attention to politics in general are much more likely to say the next appointment to the Court is very important.

Importance of next court appointment by attention to politics

  Not important Somewhat Very important
Low 50 32 18
Medium 22 41 37
High 7 23 70

Institutional change

There has been public discussion of changing the institutional structure of the Court. A majority oppose increasing the number of justices, although more than one in three somewhat favor an increase and 8 percent strongly favor a change.

[Increase the number of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court] How much do you favor or oppose the following proposals affecting the Supreme Court?

Response Percent
Strongly favor 8
Favor 35
Oppose 40
Strongly oppose 17

There is majority support for setting a fixed term for justices to serve on the Court, replacing the current life tenure.

[Have judges serve a fixed term on the court rather than serving life terms] How much do you favor or oppose the following proposals affecting the Supreme Court?

Response Percent
Strongly favor 34
Favor 38
Oppose 20
Strongly oppose 8

Restricting the power of judicial review is supported by 38 percent while 62 percent oppose this.

[Limit the ability of the Supreme Court to review and set aside acts of Congress as unconstitutional] How much do you favor or oppose the following proposals affecting the Supreme Court?

Response Percent
Strongly favor 8
Favor 30
Oppose 43
Strongly oppose 19

Partisanship plays a role in willingness to make changes to the number of justices, with Democrats more supportive than Republicans, although even among strong Democrats support for expansion is evenly divided.

Favor expanding the Court by party identification

  Strongly favor Favor Oppose Strongly oppose
Republican 3 28 42 27
Lean Republican 4 31 35 30
Independent 14 40 33 14
Lean Democrat 8 35 48 9
Democrat 10 40 40 10

Support for fixed terms is independent of partisanship, with similar support across all party groups.

Favor fixed terms for justices by party identification

  Strongly favor Favor Oppose Strongly oppose
Republican 34 35 22 8
Lean Republican 34 35 20 11
Independent 32 40 19 9
Lean Democrat 33 38 24 5
Democrat 34 41 19 6

There are modest differences between partisans in support for limiting judicial review, with Republicans a little more supportive than Democrats.

Favor limiting judicial review by party identification

  Strongly favor Favor Oppose Strongly oppose
Republican 13 32 38 17
Lean Republican 6 21 49 24
Independent 11 34 37 18
Lean Democrat 5 23 51 21
Democrat 4 33 44 19

Opposition to nominees

The confirmation of nominees to both the Supreme Court and lower federal courts has grown far more contentious over the past several decades. During this period, opposition based on expected policy differences and based on partisanship, which once was rare, has become common.

While partisan and policy differences have come to dominate elite debate over nominations, substantial majorities of the public say that these are not sufficient reasons to reject an otherwise qualified nominee.

Fewer than 40 percent say that a senator would be justified in rejecting an otherwise qualified nominee, with no ethical problems, based on how the senator believes the nominee would decide cases. More than 60 percent say that this is not a justification for rejecting a nominee.

If a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court is qualified and has no ethical problems, would U.S. senators be justified or not justified in voting against that nominee simply because of how they believe the justice would decide cases on issues such as abortion, gun control, or affirmative action?

Response Percent
Justified 38
Not justified 62

Partisan objections to a nominee are seen as even less justified, with more than 80 percent saying that rejecting a qualified nominee simply because of party is not justified, while 19 percent say that this is reason enough for a vote against confirmation.

If a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court is qualified and has no ethical problems, would U.S. senators be justified or not justified in voting against that nominee simply because the senator is from a different political party?

Response Percent
Justified 19
Not justified 81

Rejection due to partisan (i.e., party) differences is equally disapproved across party identification, ideology, and strength of party identification or ideology. While party and policy are inextricably linked, the public does not support partisan differences as the sole basis of confirming or rejecting court nominees.

Rejecting nominees based on how they are believed likely to rule on cases is somewhat more dependent on the respondent’s party and ideology. While Democratic and Republican differences are not statistically significant, independents are significantly more likely to say that rejection based on policy differences is not justified.

Reject nominee over policy by party identification

  Justified Not justified
Republican 37 63
Lean Republican 34 66
Independent 26 74
Lean Democrat 43 57
Democrat 44 56

Those who say that the next appointment is important are more likely to say that rejecting a nominee on policy grounds is justified. This does not carry over to rejection on partisan grounds, however, where there are no significant differences among respondents based on the importance that they attach to the next appointment. Even among those who rate the next appointment as very important, less than half say that rejection of a nominee is justified on policy grounds, and only one in five say so on party grounds.

Rejecting nominee over policy by importance of next appointment

  Justified Not justified
Not important 29 71
Somewhat 38 62
Very important 42 58

Rejecting nominee over party by importance of next appointment

  Justified Not justified
Not important 15 85
Somewhat 20 80
Very important 21 79

Those who are most attentive to politics are also more willing to justify rejection of a nominee on policy grounds, but not willing to do so over partisan differences. As with the importance assigned to the next nominee, more than half of those who pay the most attention to politics say that rejecting a qualified nominee on policy grounds is not justified, and more than 80 percent say this with respect to partisan grounds.

Rejecting nominee over policy by attention to politics

  Justified Not justified
Low 29 71
Medium 38 62
High 42 58

Rejecting nominee over party by attention to politics

  Justified Not justified
Low 20 80
Medium 22 78
High 17 83

Confirmations during an election year

The decision by Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, in 2016 not to hold hearings on any nominee by President Barack Obama to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia was controversial. For the mass public this action was, in retrospect at least, not the right thing to do.

In February 2016, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate would not consider or hold hearings on any nominee President Obama might name during an election year. In March, Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. The Senate did not hold a hearing and the nomination expired in January 2017. Was not holding a hearing on the nomination the right thing or the wrong thing to do?

Response Percent
Right thing to do 27
Wrong thing to do 73

The possibility of a nomination during the 2020 election year faces the question of consistency with the 2016 precedent. Most respondents believe that a nomination in 2020 should result in hearings. However, nearly one in three now believe that hearings should not be held in an election year.

If there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court during the 2020 presidential election year and President Trump nominates someone, what should the Senate do?

Response Percent
Hold hearings 69
Not hold hearings 31

Views of the lack of hearings in 2016 are strongly related to partisanship, with Republicans more likely than others to say that the refusal to consider a nomination was the right thing to do. But, even among Republicans, a majority say that it was the wrong decision, as do nearly nine in 10 Democrats.

No confirmation hearings in 2016, by party identification

  Right thing to do Wrong thing to do
Republican 45 55
Lean Republican 34 66
Independent 30 70
Lean Democrat 13 87
Democrat 13 87

As for holding hearings if a 2020 vacancy were to occur, Republicans strongly support hearings in the presidential election year, while nearly four in 10 Democrats say that no hearings should occur.

Hold confirmation hearings in 2020 by party identification

  Hold hearings Not hold hearings
Republican 72 28
Lean Republican 81 19
Independent 76 24
Lean Democrat 62 38
Democrat 63 37

Preferences on past and potential decisions

We asked about a total of 14 cases. We described seven past decisions and seven possible future decisions. In the latter group, we based some descriptions on actual cases, while others were hypothetical, and we did not indicate whether such a description was based on an actual as opposed to hypothetical case. Our choice of topics reflects recent and current cases that have received widespread news coverage. In all cases, we adopted common journalistic language to describe the outcome or consequences of decisions, rather than attempting a fuller syllabus for each case. With the exception of Roe v. Wade, we did not identify cases by name.

Opinion of past cases

Past decisions describe rulings on same-sex marriage, use of race in college admissions, a ban on travel to the United States from Muslim-majority countries, coverage of birth control in employee health plans, campaign spending by corporations and unions, partisan gerrymandering, and an individual’s right to possess a firearm.

Public views of these actual or possible decisions vary. In some cases, a majority favor past decisions, while in others the majority oppose the decisions. With potential future decisions, there are some possible outcomes that receive more popular support than others.

The full question wording and the short description used in the table below follow.

  • Past decisions: “How much do you favor or oppose the following recent Supreme Court decisions?”
    • Corporate political spending: “Decided that corporations and unions can spend unlimited amounts of money to directly support or oppose political candidates.”
    • Race in admissions: “Decided colleges can use race as one factor in deciding which applicants to admit.”
    • Partisan gerrymanders: “Decided that federal courts lack the constitutional authority to rule on cases involving legislative and congressional district boundaries designed to favor one political party (known as gerrymanders).”
    • Exclude birth control coverage: “Decided that privately held, for-profit companies may choose not to pay for coverage of prescription birth control in their workers’ health plans if the company’s owner has religious objections.”
    • Upheld travel ban: “Upheld President Donald Trump’s travel ban against citizens of five Muslim-majority countries.”
    • Same-sex marriage: “Established a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry.”
    • Right to firearms: “The Second Amendment reads: ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’ In 2008, the court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”


Public views of past decisions.

  Strongly Oppose Oppose Favor Strongly Favor Don’t know
Corporate political spending 53 22 11 3 10
Race in admissions 57 21 11 4 7
Partisan gerrymanders 26 19 15 11 29
Exclude birth control coverage 44 19 13 14 10
Upheld travel ban 33 16 19 23 10
Same-sex marriage 23 13 20 36 9
Right to firearm 11 13 27 40 8

Possible future decisions

Some of the future decisions are taken from cases currently on the Court’s docket while others are hypothetical. These questions asked how much the respondent would favor or oppose the outcome as described. Possible decisions included overturning Roe v. Wade; striking down the Affordable Care Act; allowing business owners to deny services to gay people for religious reasons; allowing the Trump administration to end the DACA program; extending protections against employment discrimination to cover gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals; allowing public funds that support students attending private schools to also include those attending religious schools; and deciding that a ban on semi-automatic rifles violates the Second Amendment. The full question wording and the short description used in the table below follows.

  • Possible future decisions: “How much do you favor or oppose the following possible Supreme Court decisions?”
    • Overturn Roe v. Wade: “Overturn Roe versus Wade, thus striking down the 1973 decision that made abortion legal in all 50 states.”
    • End DACA: “Decide the administration can end the DACA program that allows young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children to register and avoid immediate deportation.”
    • Deny service to gay people: “Decide that a business owner’s religious beliefs or free speech rights can justify refusing some services to gay people.”
    • Public funds for religious school students: “Decide that a program that financially supports students attending private schools may also include religious schools without violating the constitution.”
    • Strike down ACA: “Strike down the 2010 health care reform law, also called Obamacare, by declaring it unconstitutional.”
    • Second Amendment prohibits semi-automatic rifle ban: “Decide that a ban on semi-automatic rifles violates the Second Amendment and thus is unconstitutional.”
    • Employment discrimination includes LGBTQ people: “Decide that laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sex also apply to discrimination based on sexual orientation of gay, lesbian, or transgender individuals.”

Public views of possible future decisions.

  Strongly Oppose Oppose Favor Strongly Favor Don’t know
Overturn Roe v. Wade 47 14 13 16 9
End DACA 37 16 20 17 9
Deny service to gay people 40 17 15 19 9
Public funds for religious school students 17 16 31 22 14
Strike down ACA 35 17 15 23 10
Second Amendment prohibits semi-automatic rifle ban 36 17 14 25 8
Employment discrimination includes LGBTQ 18 12 22 39 9

Awareness and perception of justices

We asked respondents if they had never heard of each justice, had heard of each justice but didn’t have an opinion, and if they were aware whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion.

There is considerable variation in awareness of the justices, from 84 percent unable to rate Justice Stephen Breyer to 42 percent for Justice Brett Kavanaugh and 41 percent for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The awareness and favorability ratings of the justices are shown in the table below.

Some justices of the Supreme Court are better known than others. For each of these names, have you never heard of them, heard of them but don’t know enough to have an opinion of them, have a favorable opinion, or have an unfavorable opinion?

  Unfavorable Unable to rate Favorable
Breyer 5 84 11
Kagan 7 78 15
Alito 8 78 15
Gorsuch 12 70 18
Roberts 9 66 25
Sotomayor 11 59 30
Thomas 23 49 28
Kavanaugh 32 42 26
Ginsburg 17 41 41

Just over one in four respondents lacked enough information to rate even a single justice, with an additional 11 percent able to rate only one justice. Just over a third of respondents said that they were able to rate a majority of the justices.

Number of justices able to rate, full scale

Response Percent
0 28
1 11
2 9
3 9
4 9
5 8
6 8
7 6
8 4
9 8

Factual knowledge

We measure knowledge of the Court and the Constitution through four items, assessing understanding of judicial review, the authority of the Court over the president, the location of the Bill of Rights within the Constitution, and which party’s presidents have appointed a majority of the current Court.

Does the Supreme Court have the power to review laws passed by Congress and to declare them invalid if they conflict with the Constitution?

Response Percent
Yes, the Supreme Court has this power 86
No, the Supreme Court does not have this power 14

If the Supreme Court rules against the president in a case, does the president have the power to ignore that ruling, or is the president required to do as the ruling says?

Response Percent
The president has the power to ignore the ruling 23
The president is required to do as the ruling says 77


Which part of the Constitution is called the ‘Bill of Rights’?

Response Percent
Article I 9
Article II 3
Article III 2
Amendments 1-10 52
Amendments 13-15 1
I don’t know 33

What is your guess as to whether a majority of the current U.S. Supreme Court justices were appointed by Democratic or Republican presidents?

Response Percent
Definitely Democratic Majority 4
Probably Democratic Majority 23
Probably Republican Majority 54
Definitely Republican Majority 19

(The correct answer is Republican. Five were appointed by Republican presidents and four by Democratic presidents.)

We can sum up the correct answers to create a knowledge score for each respondent, ranging from zero to four correct answers.

Knowledge of factual information, full scale

Response Percent
0 2
1 6
2 25
3 39
4 29

How the public thinks justices decide and how it thinks they should decide

While some see the Court as driven by politics, a near two-to-one majority say that justices base their decisions primarily on the law.

In general, what most often motivates Supreme Court justices’ decisions?

Response Percent
Mainly politics 36
Mainly the law 64

A majority say that justices should base their decisions on an evolving meaning of the Constitution rather than on what the Constitution was originally understood to mean.

How should Supreme Court justices base their decisions? On their interpretations of what the U.S. Constitution was understood to mean when it was originally written or on the Constitution as a document whose meaning may have evolved over time?

Response Percent
Original meaning 43
Evolving meaning 57

A majority of the public believes that a decision should produce a “fair” outcome rather than strictly follow the law if that would produce an unfair outcome.

Which is more important, a decision that leads to a fair outcome or one that follows the law, even if seemingly unfair?

Response Percent
That leads to a fair outcome 56
That follows the law, even if seemingly unfair 44

In thinking about the qualities important in a justice, the public puts greater emphasis on good judgment and empathy, followed by respect for existing decisions. Following a judicial philosophy was deemed least important. (In this table “not at all important” and “not very important” are combined as “unimportant.”)

  • “How important is it for a good Supreme Court justice to have each of these characteristics?”
    • “Be able to empathize with ordinary people; that is, to be able to understand how the law hurts or helps the people”
    • “Exercise good judgment and wisdom in the application of the law rather than only strict technical compliance with the law as it is written”
    • “Respect for existing Supreme Court decisions”
    • “Interpret the law according to the justice’s judicial philosophy, whether liberal or conservative”

How important is it for a good Supreme Court justice to have each of these characteristics?

  Unimportant Somewhat Very
Empathy 10 21 69
Good judgment 10 25 65
Respect precedent 12 44 44
Judicial philosophy 26 31 43

The Court and opinions of the president

Appointments to the Supreme Court emerged as an important element in the 2016 presidential campaign when then-candidate Donald Trump released a list of names from which he pledged to select nominees to the Court. With two subsequent appointments to the Court, this issue has remained salient as a congressional issue as well.

Asked how much they approve of President Trump’s handling of Supreme Court appointments, 43 percent approve, and 57 percent disapprove.

[Appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court] How much do you approve or disapprove of the way Trump is handling the following issues?

Response Percent
Strongly approve 22
Somewhat approve 21
Somewhat disapprove 19
Strongly disapprove 38

For comparison, 40 percent approve of President Trump’s handling of his job overall, while 60 percent disapprove, a slightly worse overall approval rating than for his handling of court nominations.

Overall, how much do you approve or disapprove of the way Trump is handling his job as president?

Response Percent
Strongly approve 20
Somewhat approve 20
Somewhat disapprove 14
Strongly disapprove 46

Asked about their confidence in a future Trump nominee, 32 percent say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence, 13 percent have some, while 56 percent say they have little or no confidence that the next nominee will be the right kind of person for the Court.

If there is another opening on the Supreme Court, how much confidence do you have that President Donald Trump will select the right kind of person to sit on the Supreme Court?

Response Percent
A great deal of confidence 19
Quite a lot of confidence 13
Some confidence 13
Very little confidence 19
None at all 37

Views of presidential performance overall and of judicial matters are, unsurprisingly, closely tied to partisanship, with nearly identical correlations of 0.74 and 0.73, respectively.

Approval of Trump’s handling of nominations to the Supreme Court by party identification

  Strongly approve Somewhat approve Somewhat disapprove Strongly disapprove
Republican 59 30 7 4
Lean Republican 39 41 12 8
Independent 7 28 31 34
Lean Democrat 1 5 31 63
Democrat 2 7 22 69

A multivariate model of overall Trump job approval, including the effects of partisanship and ideology, finds that approval of court nominations has a strong and statistically significant relationship with overall job approval. The favorability rating of Justice Kavanaugh is also a statistically significant predictor of job approval, while the rating of Trump’s other appointee, Justice Gorsuch, is not statistically significant.

Opinion on handling of nominations also has statistically significant effects on vote choice for president in 2020. A multivariate model that predicts vote if the final election is between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden and if the final election is between Trump and Sen. Elizabeth Warren results in similar conclusions. The model, which includes partisanship, ideology, and overall job approval, finds that there is an additional statistically significant effect of approval of court nominations, and of favorability to Kavanaugh, with no statistically significant effect for favorability to Gorsuch.

While other factors such as party, ideology, and overall performance are powerful predictors of vote choice, the statistical model supports the idea that court appointments are an additional factor in evaluations of presidential performance and in vote choice.

A more detailed analysis of the survey findings is available at https://law.marquette.edu/poll/category/results-and-data/

About the Marquette Law School Poll

The survey was conducted Sept. 3-13, 2019, interviewing 1,423 adults nationwide, with a margin of error of +/-3.6 percentage points. Interviews were conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) using its AmeriSpeak Panel, a national probability sample, with interviews conducted online. The detailed methodology statement, complete survey instrument, topline results, and crosstabs are available at https://law.marquette.edu/poll/category/results-and-data/