Poll Release

Amid major national developments, new Marquette Law School Poll finds Wisconsin voter preferences holding steady in presidential race

MILWAUKEE – A new Marquette Law School poll of likely Wisconsin voters finds little change in preference or attitudes following the first presidential debate and after President Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19. While twice as many respondents say former Vice President Joe Biden did better in the debate as say Trump did better, the shift in the vote margin since early September is a single point.

In the new poll, Biden is the choice of 46% of likely voters and Trump is supported by 41%. Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen is the choice of 4%, while 8% say they would vote for none of these candidates, don’t know how they would vote or decline to say.

In early September, Biden was supported by 47%, Trump by 43% and Jorgensen by 4%. Another 7% said they would vote for none of these candidates, didn’t know how they would vote or declined to say.

Other findings from the new poll include:

  • A third of respondents think Trump has mild symptoms from COVID-19, while slightly more say they don’t yet know how ill he is.
  • Most think that in-person campaign rallies should be halted, while a majority think the debates should continue.
  • By a 2-to-1 margin, voters say Biden did a better job in the debate.
  • More people than in September say they are very worried by the risk of getting ill from the coronavirus, and support for requiring masks in public places is slightly higher than in August when last asked.
  • Over a third say they’ve stopped talking about politics with someone, and this varies by political party.

The poll was conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 4, 2020. The sample included 805 registered voters in Wisconsin, interviewed by cell phone or landline, with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points. There were 700 likely voters, with a margin of error of +/- 4.6 percentage points. Five items were added to the survey after Trump announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 and were asked Oct. 2-4 to 355 registered voters. Results for that group have a margin of error of +/- 6.4 percentage points.

Table 1 shows the trend in vote among likely voters from May through September. Jorgensen was not included prior to September. None of the poll-to-poll changes in support are outside the margin of error. There is less variation in support of presidential candidates than in either the 2012 or 2016 summer and fall Marquette Law School polls.

Table 1: Vote among likely voters, May-October 2020

Poll DatesNet Dem-RepJoe BidenDonald TrumpJo JorgensenNone/other (VOL)Don’t knowRefused
5/3-7/2044945NA321
6/14-18/2065044NA321
8/4-9/2054944NA321
8/30-9/3/20447434232
9/30-10/4/20546414134

Reactions to Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis

Among respondents interviewed Oct. 2-4, after Trump announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19, 33% say they think he has a mild case, 13% say it is a moderate case, 8% say it is a serious case and 3% say it is a very serious case. A substantial 37% say they don’t know how serious Trump’s illness is.

Following Trump’s diagnosis, 52% say both Trump and Biden should stop holding in-person campaign rallies, while 37% say rallies are safe and should continue.

In contrast, 67% say the vice-presidential and remaining presidential debates should be held as scheduled, while 23% say the debates should be canceled.

Asked about the vice-presidential candidates, all following the announcement of Trump’s illness, 33% say they are very confident and 23% are somewhat confident in Vice President Mike Pence’s ability to perform the duties of president, while 12% are not very confident and 21% are not at all confident.

For Sen. Kamala Harris, 25% say they are very confident and 20% are somewhat confident in her ability to perform the duties of president, while 11% are not very confident and 29% are not at all confident.

Who did best in the debate?

Among all registered voters polled, 41% say Biden did the best job in the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, while 20% say Trump did best. Fourteen percent say both did badly, while 21% say they didn’t pay much attention to the debate. Less than a half of 1% say both candidates did well.

There are substantial differences in perceived debate performance by partisanship, as shown in Table 2. Few partisans give the edge to the other party’s candidate, although more than one in five Republicans and Independents volunteer that both candidates did badly, while only 6% of Democrats agree.

Table 2: Regardless of which candidate you happen to support, who do you think did the best job in the first presidential debate, Joe Biden or Donald Trump, or didn’t you pay much attention to the debate? By party identification

Party IDBidenTrumpDidn’t pay much attentionBoth did equally well (VOL)Both did badly (VOL)Don’t know
Republican941251213
Independent2415301236
Democrat76115062

Senate action on Supreme Court nominee

Judge Amy Coney Barrett has been nominated to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Forty-four percent think the Senate should vote on this nomination before the November elections, while 51% think the Senate should wait until after the election to decide whether to vote on the nomination. This is a sharply partisan issue, as shown in Table 3.

Table 3: Do you think the Senate should vote on the nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court before the presidential election or wait until after the election to decide whether or not to vote on the nomination? By party identification

Party IDVote before the electionWait until after the electionDon’t know
Republican81153
Independent394119
Democrat8902

Attitudes concerning COVID-19

In October, 27% say they are very worried about being ill from the coronavirus, an increase from 21% in September. Twenty-one percent say they are not at all worried, virtually the same as the 19% in September.

Table 4 shows how worries have varied since March, when the percent very or somewhat worried was at the highest level seen so far. Since June, the percent who are very worried has fluctuated, seemingly in line with periods of increasing or decreasing numbers of new cases of COVID-19 in the state, while the number of those not at all worried has stabilized close to 20%.

Table 4: Taking into consideration both your risk of contracting it and the seriousness of the illness, how worried are you personally about experiencing coronavirus? March-October 2020

Poll dateVery worriedSomewhat worriedNot very worriedNot worried at allAlready had COVID-19 (VOL)Don’t know
3/24-29/203040181100
5/3-7/202535201900
6/14-18/201936212411
8/4-9/202736171910
8/30-9/3/202139191910
9/30-10/4/202734162120

Half of respondents think the pandemic will continue for another year or more before things start to return to normal, while 20% say it will be under control within three months. These results are shown in Table 5.

Table 5: When do you think the coronavirus outbreak will be under control and things can get back to normal? October 2020

ResponsePercent
It is under control now5
In two or three months15
In six months21
In about a year28
More than a year from now22
Don’t know8
Refused0

A plurality, 47%, think the Big Ten conference and University of Wisconsin—Madison should play football this fall, while 40% think they should not play.

In October, 72% agree that masks should be required in public places, while 26% disagree with requiring masks. In August, 69% supported a mask requirement and 29% were opposed.

Support for a mask requirement exceeds 60% in all regions of the state, as shown in Table 6 for August and October polls. There has been little change in regions since August, except for the non-Fox Valley north and west of the state (“Rest of the state”), where support has increased.

Table 6: Support for requiring masks by region by poll, August and October 2020

RegionPoll datesAgreeDisagreeDon’t know
MKE City8/4-9/2083152
MKE City9/30-10/4/2087121
Rest of MKE metro area8/4-9/2064351
Rest of MKE metro area9/30-10/4/2067292
Madison8/4-9/2078202
Madison9/30-10/4/2079201
GB/Appleton8/4-9/2073261
GB/Appleton9/30-10/4/2074260
Rest of state8/4-9/2060374
Rest of state9/30-10/4/2066303

While substantial majorities in all regions support a mask requirement, there are partisan differences which have persisted since August, as shown in Table 7. Republicans are divided on the issue, while a large majority of independents support requiring masks and Democrats are almost unanimous in support.

Table 7: Support for requiring masks by party identification by poll, August and October 2020

Party IDPoll datesAgreeDisagreeDon’t know
Republican8/4-9/2043543
Republican9/30-10/4/2047492
Independent8/4-9/2071290
Independent9/30-10/4/2066282
Democrat8/4-9/209352
Democrat9/30-10/4/209810

Views of protests, BLM and Evers’ response to events in Kenosha

Approval of protests over police violence against Black Americans declined from June to early August, prior to events in Kenosha, but barely moved following the late-August Kenosha shootings and protests, as shown in Table 8.

Table 8: Approval of protests against police shootings, June-October 2020

Poll datesApproveDisapproveDon’t know
6/14-18/2061362
8/4-9/2048483
8/30-9/3/2047484
9/30-10/4/2046494

Favorable views of the Black Lives Matter movement also declined from June to August but did not change further in September. They declined very slightly in October, as shown in Table 9.

Table 9: Favorable or unfavorable view of Black Lives Matter movement, June-October 2020

Poll datesFavorableUnfavorableHaven’t heard enoughDon’t know
6/14-18/20592765
8/4-9/204937105
8/30-9/3/20493785
9/30-10/4/20464085

Forty percent approve of the way Gov. Tony Evers handled events in Kenosha following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in August, while 44% disapprove of his response.

Approval of Trump’s handling of protests

Table 10 shows approval, since June, of Trump’s handling of protests since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. There is little change from September to October.

Table 10: Approve or disapprove of Trump’s handling of protests, June-October 2020

Poll dateApproveDisapproveDon’t know
6/14-18/20305811
8/4-9/2032589
8/30-9/3/2036548
9/30-10/4/2037548

Views of Trump, Biden, Pence and Harris

Favorable and unfavorable views of Trump have been stable in recent months. Trump has held a 42% favorable rating since June, with 53-to-55% unfavorable.

Biden’s favorable rating has slowly increased, with October showing the first net favorable rating for him this year at 48% favorable with 45% unfavorable.

The full trends for both Trump and Biden are shown in Tables 11 and 12.

Table 11: Favorable or unfavorable view of Trump, January-October 2020

Poll dateNetFavorableUnfavorableHaven’t heard enoughDon’t know
1/8-12/20-5465101
2/19-23/20-5455032
3/24-29/20-5455023
5/3-7/20-7445122
6/14-18/20-12425422
8/4-9/20-13425521
8/30-9/3/20-12425421
9/30-10/4/20-11425322

Table 12: Favorable or unfavorable view of Biden, January-October 2020

Poll dateNetFavorableUnfavorableHaven’t heard enoughDon’t know
1/8-12/20-5414684
2/19-23/20-19345384
3/24-29/20-11395074
5/3-7/20-4424674
6/14-18/20-2444672
8/4-9/20-5434872
8/30-9/3/20-2454761
9/30-10/4/203484552

The vice-presidential candidates are less familiar to respondents, with 17% unable to give a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Vice President Mike Pence and 23% unable to give an opinion of Sen. Kamala Harris.

Tables 13 and 14 shows favorable and unfavorable ratings for Pence and Harris this fall.

Table 13: Favorable or unfavorable view of Pence, September-October 2020

Poll dateNetFavorableUnfavorableHaven’t heard enoughDon’t know
8/30-9/3/20-73946123
9/30-10/4/20-14142125

Table 14: Favorable or unfavorable view of Harris, September-October 2020

Poll dateNetFavorableUnfavorableHaven’t heard enoughDon’t know
8/30-9/3/2013837204
9/30-10/4/20-33740194

Trump’s job approval

Approval of how Trump is handling his job as president is little changed over the surveys since May, as shown in Table 15. As of October, 44% approve and 52% disapprove.

Table 15: Approve or disapprove of Trump’s handling of his job as president, May-October 2020

Poll dateApproveDisapproveDon’t know
5/3-7/2047493
6/14-18/2045513
8/4-9/2044542
8/30-9/3/2044542
9/30-10/4/2044522

Trump’s handling of the economy

Handling of the economy remains Trump’s strongest area of approval, with 51% approval and 45% disapproval in October. The full trend since May is shown in Table 16.

Table 16: Approve or disapprove of Trump’s handling of the economy, May-October 2020

Poll dateApproveDisapproveDon’t know
5/3-7/2054404
6/14-18/2050463
8/4-9/2051463
8/30-9/3/2052442
9/30-10/4/2051454

Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic

After an initial approval rating in March of over 50% for his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, Trump’s approval rating has fallen to 41% in October, unchanged from September. The full trend is shown in Table 17.

Table 17: Approve or disapprove of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, March-October 2020

Poll dateApproveDisapproveDon’t know
3/24-29/2051462
5/3-7/2044513
6/14-18/2044523
8/4-9/2040582
8/30-9/3/2041562
9/30-10/4/2041563

Approval of Evers’ job performance and handling of the coronavirus pandemic

After six months of elevated approval ratings, approval of Gov. Tony Evers’ handling of his job fell in September back to pre-coronavirus levels. In October, 52% approve and 42% disapprove of his job performance. In September, 51% approved and 43% disapproved. The trend in overall approval of Evers in 2020 is shown in Table 18.

Table 18: Tony Evers’ job approval, January-October 2020

Poll datesApproveDisapprove
1/8-12/205140
2/19-23/205138
3/24-29/206529
5/3-7/205933
6/14-18/205438
8/4-9/205737
8/30-9/3/205143
9/30-10/4/205242

Evers’ handling of the coronavirus issue brings approval from 56% and disapproval from 38%. That is a one-point decline in approval from September. The trend in approval and disapproval is shown in Table 19.

Table 19: Tony Evers’ handling of coronavirus outbreak, March-October 2020

Poll datesApproveDisapprove
3/24-29/207617
5/3-7/206432
6/14-18/205837
8/4-9/206135
8/30-9/3/205738
9/30-10/4/205638

Choice of ballot type for November election

The number of voters who say they will vote absentee by mail has leveled off at about a third of the total, compared to 43% who said in May that they planned to do that. The number who say they will vote in person on Election Day continues to rise. Table 20 shows the trend since May.

Table 20: Ballot type, by poll, May-October 2020

Poll dateElection Day, in personEarly, in personAbsentee by mailProbably/might not voteDon’t know
5/3-7/2039114324
8/4-9/2046123533
8/30-9/3/2050143222
9/30-10/4/2054103213

Most Republicans intend to vote in person on Election Day, with fewer than one-fifth planning to choose absentee by mail. By contrast, almost half of Democrats expect to proceed absentee by mail, as shown in Table 21, more even than on Election Day.

Table 21: Ballot type by party identification, October 2020

Party IDElection Day, in personEarly, in personAbsentee by mailProbably/might not voteDon’t knowRefused
Republican691118120
Independent59422663
Democrat391147120

There have been changes in the preferred type of ballot since May, with a smaller percentage in each partisan category choosing absentee by mail, though large partisan differences persist, as shown in Table 22.

Table 22: Ballot type by party identification, by poll, May-October 2020

Party IDPoll dateElection Day, in personEarly, in personAbsentee by mailProbably/might not voteDon’t know
Republican5/3-7/2059132512
Republican8/4-9/2067121533
Republican8/30-9/3/2069111811
Republican9/30-10/4/2069111812
Independent5/3-7/2030154356
Independent8/4-9/20391527135
Independent8/30-9/3/2041182983
Independent9/30-10/4/205942266
Democrat5/3-7/202196235
Democrat8/4-9/2027125523
Democrat8/30-9/3/2034164721
Democrat9/30-10/4/2039114712

May was the high-water mark, among all partisan categories, for the percentage saying they would vote absentee by mail. Republicans and independents have been relatively stable in their type of ballot since August, though independents are a bit more likely to say they will vote in person in the October survey. The percentage of Democrats choosing absentee by mail has declined since May while their intention to vote in-person on Election Day has increased.

With substantial partisan differences in choice of ballot type, there are large differences in candidate choice by ballot type, as shown in Table 23 among likely voters. The margin for Trump among Election Day voters has declined over time, while Biden’s advantage among absentee and early in-person voters has remained strong over the last two months.

Table 23: Vote by ballot type by poll wave, May-October 2020

Ballot typePoll dateBidenTrumpOther/DK/Refn
Election Day, in person5/3-7/2026686256
Election Day, in person8/4-9/2026677332
Election Day, in person8/30-9/3/2033589356
Election Day, in person9/30-10/4/20335413379
Early, in person5/3-7/2036531176
Early, in person8/4-9/205045580
Early, in person8/30-9/3/2053351297
Early, in person9/30-10/4/205239974
Absentee by mail5/3-7/2072235299
Absentee by mail8/4-9/2081145241
Absentee by mail8/30-9/3/20682210222
Absentee by mail9/30-10/4/20672013236

Stopped talking about politics

Just over one in three respondents, 36%, say they have stopped talking about politics with at least one person because of disagreements over the presidential election, while 63% say they have not done this. This is little changed from October 2016, when 34% said they had stopped talking and 65% said they had not.

Democrats are more likely to have stopped talking about politics than are Republicans or independents and have become more unwilling to talk in 2020 than in 2016. Table 24 shows the comparison by party for 2016 and 2020.

Table 24: Is there anyone you have stopped talking with about politics due to disagreements over the election for president? By party identification and by year, October 2016 and October 2020

Party IDPoll datesYesNoDon’t know
Republican10/26-31/1630690
Republican9/30-10/4/2028720
Independent10/26-31/1627730
Independent9/30-10/4/2029710
Democrat10/26-31/1639610
Democrat9/30-10/4/2046541

Views of the economy, past and future

Views of the direction of the economy have turned sharply down since February, with many more people saying the economy has gotten worse over the past year. However, respondents have a strongly positive outlook for the economy over the next 12 months. Tables 25 and 26 show the recent trends in these measures.

Table 25: Change in economy over past 12 months, January-October 2020

Poll datesGotten betterGotten worseStayed the sameDon’t knowNet
1/8-12/20481733231
2/19-23/20471536232
3/24-29/20413125310
5/3-7/202846204-18
6/14-18/202750194-23
8/4-9/202256193-34
8/30-9/3/202551193-26
9/30-10/4/202553184-28

Table 26: Outlook for the economy over the next 12 months, January-October 2020

Poll datesGet betterGet worseStay the sameDon’t knowNet
1/8-12/20332337610
2/19-23/20362137715
3/24-29/20443413810
5/3-7/20453116714
6/14-18/20501924631
8/4-9/204523211121
8/30-9/3/204818211330
9/30-10/4/204318251425

Family financial situation

Table 27 shows the trend in family finances since January. There was little change in reported financial situation from September to October.

Table 27: Family financial situation, January-September 2020

Poll datesLiving comfortablyJust getting byStruggling
1/8-12/2063288
2/19-23/2062298
3/24-29/20593010
5/3-7/2061289
6/14-18/2061316
8/4-9/2063288
8/30-9/3/2060328
9/30-10/4/2060309

Views of state officials

Tables 28-30 present the recent favorability ratings of elected officials in Wisconsin and the percentage of respondents who haven’t heard enough or say they don’t know.

Table 28: Evers’ recent favorability trend

Poll datesFavorableUnfavorableHaven’t heard enoughDon’t know
1/8-12/204537143
2/19-23/204340124
3/24-29/205428116
5/3-7/20503675
6/14-18/20543772
8/4-9/20523594
8/30-9/3/20474192
9/30-10/4/20474093

Table 29: Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s recent favorability trend

Poll datesFavorableUnfavorableHaven’t heard enoughDon’t know
1/8-12/204440132
2/19-23/204340133
3/24-29/204039164
5/3-7/204537143
6/14-18/204038193
8/4-9/204336173
8/30-9/3/204235193
9/30-10/4/204135203

Table 30: Sen. Ron Johnson’s recent favorability trend

Poll datesFavorableUnfavorableHaven’t heard enoughDon’t know
1/8-12/203929283
2/19-23/203734245
3/24-29/203532294
5/3-7/203834235
6/14-18/203532293
8/4-9/203335274
8/30-9/3/203236285
9/30-10/4/203531277

About the Marquette Law School Poll

The Marquette Law School Poll is the most extensive statewide polling project in Wisconsin history. This poll interviewed 805 registered Wisconsin voters by landline or cell phone from Sept. 30-Oct. 4, 2020. The margin of error is +/-4.2 percentage points for the full sample. There are 700 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.6 percentage points. Five items were added to the survey after Trump announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 and were asked Oct. 2-4 with a sample size of 355 registered voters and a margin of error of +/- 6.4.

The partisan makeup of the sample, including those who lean to a party, is 44% Republican, 45% Democratic and 10% independent. The partisan makeup of the sample, excluding those who lean to a party, is 29% Republican, 29% Democratic and 41% independent.

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

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

New national Marquette Law School Poll finds that, even amid partisan differences on judicial philosophy, most voters say U.S. Supreme Court decisions are based on law and not politics

Editor’s Note: This is the third of three releases to announce findings in this poll, with previous releases distributed on Sept. 23 and Sept. 24

Please note: Complete Poll results and methodology information can be found online at law.marquette.edu/poll

MILWAUKEE — A Marquette Law School Poll of adults nationwide, completed shortly before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, finds that 62 percent of respondents say Supreme Court justices’ decisions are motivated mainly by the law, while 37 percent say they are motivated mainly by politics.

While views of the Court often correspond to political identifications, the view of judicial motivations is quite uniform across partisanship and ideology. Table 1 shows perceived motivation of decisions, by party identification. The range is narrow: Across the parties, between 35 and 39 percent say politics is a primary motivation and 60 to 65 percent say the law is mainly the motivation.

Table 1: Perceived basis of decisions, by party identification

Party IDMainly politicsMainly the law
Republican3960
Independent3565
Democrat3961

Table 2 shows the perceived motivation, by political ideology, and again all groups share very similar views, with 35-40 percent of each group pointing to politics, while 60-65 percent say the law is the main motivation for decisions.

Table 2: Perceived basis of decisions, by self-described ideology

IdeologyMainly politicsMainly the law
Very conservative4060
Conservative3565
Moderate3961
Liberal3565
Very liberal4060

Those who disapprove of the job the Court is doing are much more likely to say decisions are politically motivated, with 56 percent saying decisions are primarily political and 44 percent saying they are primarily based in the law. By contrast, among those who approve of the way the Court is handling its job, 28 percent say decisions are primarily political and 72 percent say they are motivated by the law.

Similarly, 79 percent of those with a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the Court cite the law as the motivation for decisions, while 21 percent say decisions are mostly political. For those who say they have “some” confidence in the Court, 55 percent cite the law and 44 percent point to politics as the motivation for decisions. And among those with very little or no confidence in the Court, 40 percent cite the law while 60 percent say politics is the motivation for decisions.

Asked how justices should interpret the law, 31 percent say they should read the text as written, 23 percent say they should use the commonly understood meaning at the time the law was written, and 45 percent say justices should interpret the law as it applies to current circumstances.

On this question, preferences vary by both party and ideology. Table 3 shows how views vary by partisanship. Republicans are more likely to prefer to base decisions on the text of the law, while Democrats are more likely to say the application to current circumstances should be more important. More independents prefer interpretation by application to current circumstances rather than by the text. Across all party groups, about one in five people say the original meaning of the law should be the basis of decisions.

Table 3: Preferred basis of decisions, by party identification

Party IDRead the text of the law as writtenUse the commonly understood meaning at the time the law was writtenInterpret the law as it applies to current circumstances
Republican462331
Independent292347
Democrat212156

Conservatives give greater weight to the text than to current circumstances, while liberals prefer decisions based on current applications of the law, as shown in Table 4.

Table 4: Preferred basis of decisions, by ideology

IdeologyRead the text of the law as writtenUse the commonly understood meaning at the time the law was writtenInterpret the law as it applies to current circumstances
Very conservative562419
Conservative432433
Moderate282447
Liberal191863
Very liberal131670

Debates among those involved in the law and politics over constitutional interpretation based on “original intent” versus “evolving meaning” have also aligned with party and ideology in the public at large. When asked how the justices should decide constitutional questions, two-thirds of Republicans say they should follow the original meaning of the Constitution, while two-thirds of Democrats say the Constitution should be read as a document whose meaning may have evolved over time. Table 5 shows responses by partisanship.

Table 5: Constitutional interpretation, by party identification

Party IDWhat the U.S. Constitution was understood to mean when it was originally writtenThe Constitution as a document whose meaning may have evolved over time
Republican6931
Independent4058
Democrat3167

As with party identification, there is a strong alignment of constitutional interpretation preference with ideology, as shown in Table 6.

Table 6: Constitutional interpretation, by ideology

IdeologyWhat the U.S. Constitution was understood to mean when it was originally writtenThe Constitution as a document whose meaning may have evolved over time
Very conservative8416
Conservative6436
Moderate4059
Liberal2375
Very liberal1682

It is striking that respondents tend to agree across party and ideological lines on how justices make decisions—that the justices do so mainly on the basis of the law rather than politics—but differ sharply on what judicial philosophy justices should use to decide.

Recent decisions

Agreement with recent Court decisions varies across subject matter, with some cases less visible to the public than others. In the survey instrument, cases were not referred to by name. See the survey instrument for the question wording, which focuses on an important element of each case but does not attempt to convey the full complexity of cases or of the issues they present.

One of the major cases of the last term, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, decided that the federal law barring employment discrimination on the basis of sex also applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and against transgender individuals. Sixty-two percent favor this decision, while 26 percent oppose it and 11 percent say they don’t have an opinion.

The Court held in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue that a state program financially supporting students who attend private schools may include religious schools without violating the federal Constitution. This decision is favored by 51 percent and opposed by 32 percent of respondents, while 15 percent do not have an opinion.

The Court rejected the attempt of President Donald Trump’s administration to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California. Fifty percent favor this ruling, 35 percent oppose it and 14 percent say they don’t know.

In Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, the Court approved the Trump administration’s plan to permit private employers with religious or moral objections to choose not to provide contraceptive coverage as part of their employee health insurance plans. For this decision, 34 percent favor it, 51 percent oppose it and 13 percent have no opinion.

In the term’s major case concerning abortion regulation, June Medical Services LLC v. Russo, the Court struck down a particular Louisiana law regulating abortion providers in the state. Forty-five percent favor this decision, with 35 percent opposing it and 18 percent not expressing an opinion.

In McGirt v Oklahoma, the Court ruled that land granted in the 1830s to the Creek Indian Nation retains that status, with the result that the state of Oklahoma could not itself prosecute tribal members for major crimes in the eastern portion of the state, including places such as Tulsa, because Congress has not acted to change those treaties. Fully 27 percent say they don’t have an opinion about this decision, while 46 percent favor the ruling and 25 percent oppose it.

While the Court did not rule on an affirmative action case during the 2019 term, we asked whether the respondent favors or opposes past decisions that permit the use of race as one factor in making college admissions decisions. Seventeen percent favor these decisions, while 73 percent oppose them and 10 percent say they don’t know.

Possible future decisions

Drawing on a range of cases or controversies that either are already accepted for the coming Court term or present issues likely to come to the Court in the future, we asked opinions about possible decisions.

Roe v. Wade has remained at the center of political debate over abortion for more than four decades. In this survey, 32 percent would favor overturning Roe, while 55 percent oppose overturning it and 12 percent say they don’t have an opinion.

Two cases accepted for argument this fall, Texas v. California and California v. Texas, challenge the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Among respondents, 36 percent favor striking down the ACA, while 52 percent oppose striking down the law and 11 percent say they don’t know.

Cases currently in the lower courts, but not yet before the Supreme Court, concern whether limits on the sale of high-capacity gun magazines violate the Second Amendment. Thirty-seven percent would favor a ruling striking down such restrictions, while 50 percent would favor allowing legislative limits on such gun magazines to stay in effect and 11 percent say they don’t know.

Recent rulings have expanded interpretations of exemptions from employment discrimination laws for religious organizations and schools in the case of certain types of employees. Among respondents in this poll, 42 percent favor a possible ruling that, under the First Amendment, religiously affiliated schools are generally exempt from these laws with respect to employees whose jobs involve conveying religious beliefs, while 43 percent oppose this and 14 percent say that don’t know.

A case set for argument this fall, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, poses, among other issues, a question whether a religious social service organization that refuses to certify same-sex couples as foster parents may be excluded from a public foster placement program. Forty percent would favor a ruling that such an organization may be legally excluded, 44 percent would oppose such a ruling and 15 percent do not have an opinion.

There are developing issues as to how explicit Congress must be in giving regulatory agencies authority to develop and impose regulations. Fifty-three percent would favor a ruling that federal agencies may not write regulations unless their substance is explicitly set forth in legislation, 19 percent would oppose this limitation on regulatory agencies and 27 percent don’t have an opinion.

Forty-eight percent would favor a ruling that laws making it harder, as a practical matter, for supporters of one party, but not the other, to vote are unconstitutional. Meanwhile, 29 percent would oppose such a decision and 21 percent say they don’t know.

About the Marquette Law School Poll

The survey was conducted Sept. 8-15, 2020, interviewing 1,523 adults nationwide, with a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points. There are 1357 likely voters, 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, survey instrument, topline results, and crosstabs for this release are available at https://law.marquette.edu/poll/category/results-and-data/.