With the U.S. Senate approaching a showdown over the confirmation of prospective U.S. Supreme Court Judge Neil Gorsuch, Americans are only mildly interested in those proceedings and the political drama surrounding the decision. A new national survey by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) indicates that while peoples’ views of the nominee are influenced by their faith leanings and political ideology, a shockingly high number of adults are simply not interested in the outcome. Among adults who oppose confirming Gorsuch, the survey revealed that the reasons for that opposition typically have more to do with politics than judicial philosophy.
Americans Want Gorsuch
By a 3:2 margin (41% – 26%), adults who have an opinion on the Gorsuch confirmation want to see the federal appeals court Judge confirmed by the Senate. Amazingly, however, one-third of adults (32%) have no opinion on the matter.
Several segments of the population stood out due to their high levels of disinterest in the upcoming Senate vote on Gorsuch’s future. Almost two-thirds of adults who are not registered to vote (62%) said they had no opinion on the Senate’s action. While about one-quarter of liberals and conservatives had no opinion, twice as many ideological moderates (48%) said they were undecided about the situation. Women were also far more likely than men to have no opinion on the matter (40% compared to 24%, respectively).
The Faith Factor
People’s faith leanings were related to their feelings about the Gorsuch confirmation.
By a 2-to-1 margin (45% to 23%), people who consider themselves to be Christians want the nominee to be confirmed. However, Protestants were much more likely to be supportive (49%) than were Catholics (38%). People who associate with a non-Christian faith were just as likely as Christians to support Gorsuch (45% in favor, 20% opposed). Skeptics – those who consider themselves to be atheist, agnostic, or to have no faith inclinations at all – were the only faith segment to oppose the Gorsuch bid: 29% support his confirmation, 36% do not, and 36% of them had no opinion.
Born again Christians – the 30% of the population who say they believe they will go to Heaven after they die solely because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior – favored the confirmation by a 2:1 margin, too. Nearly half of them support the acceptance of Gorsuch to the Supreme Court (48% for, 22% against, 30% don’t know). Surprisingly, a plurality of the non-born again population also favor the confirmation, although by a smaller margin (38% to 28%, with 33% undecided).
The strongest correlation with opinions about the confirmation was with peoples’ political ideology. As might be expected, liberals vehemently opposed Gorsuch’s confirmation while conservatives overwhelmingly support it. Overall, about one out of every four liberals support Gorsuch, while about two out of three conservatives want to see him voted onto the bench. Moderates were less consistent in their views. Respondents who were fiscal moderates were evenly divided on the vote, while those who classified themselves as social moderates approved the confirmation by a 2:1 margin.
As would be expected, opinions on the confirmation were clearly divided by political party affiliation. Republicans support the confirmation 78% to 5%. Democrats oppose it, with 50% against Gorsuch compared to 21% in favor of his selection. Independents are generally in favor of the confirmation by a 42% to 27% split.
Views on Gorsuch’s future relate closely to the presidential candidate whom people supported in November. Among those who voted for Donald Trump, 80% support Gorsuch, less than 1% oppose him, and 18% are undecided. Among Hillary Clinton voters, just 19% support the confirmation, 52% oppose it, and 29% are undecided.
As much as anything, though, adults seem to have made the Gorsuch candidacy a referendum on Donald Trump’s performance as president. The more positive they are toward the president’s performance, the more positive they are toward the Gorsuch confirmation. At the extremes on the evaluation scale, 91% of those who give Trump an “A” also approved of the Gorsuch confirmation. Among those giving Trump an “F” for his performance to date, just 8% supported a Gorsuch confirmation.
Reasons for Rejection
The ACFI survey asked those who want the Senate to reject Gorsuch to explain the primary reason for their disapproval of the Judge’s candidacy. Two reasons dominated the pack: disagreement with some of Gorsuch’s past rulings or other points of view (32%) and the fact that he was nominated by Donald Trump (26%). Another 10% felt that Gorsuch is not qualified for the job. (Gorsuch has graduated from Columbia University, Harvard Law School, and Oxford University; clerked for two Supreme Court justices; worked in the U.S. Department of Justice; and has spent the last decade as a widely-respected Judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.)
Other reasons for rejecting the Judge are the fact that he is favored by conservatives (8%), that he believes in a strict interpretation of the Constitution (7%), that he is white (3%), and that he is male (2%).
Amazing Lack of Interest
George Barna, the Executive Director of the American Culture and Faith Institute, found the results of the survey indicative of the relationship between adults and national politics these days.
“The presidential campaign raised awareness of the importance of the Supreme Court nominations made by a president,” he recalled. “Now that the new president has nominated a candidate for Judge Scalia’s vacated seat, the Senate has completed its interrogation of Judge Gorsuch, and the media has obsessed on the confirmation vote for several weeks, it is very telling that one out of three American adults have no opinion about the outcome of the forthcoming Senate vote. Millions of Americans are burned out on politics and have apparently tuned out what is happening on the political scene, even though it will greatly affect their lives.
“Many of those who have stopped following the process believe that their thoughts and input make no difference to the outcomes – that they are simply ‘victims of the system,’” the researcher and author explained. “For our system to operate at peak performance, people must believe that their views and participation matter. That challenge to our national leaders may be one of the most important outcomes we draw from this protracted Supreme Court nomination process.”
About the Research
The research described in this report is part of the FullView™ surveys, a monthly national public opinion study conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI) among a nationwide random sample of adults. This FullView™ online survey was conducted March 22-29, 2017, with 1,000 respondents age 18 or older whose demographic profile reflects that of the United States.
The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians to engage in cultural transformation in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.
Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of the weekly research reports produced by ACFI, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.