Supporting Kavanaugh Won’t Help Red-State Democrats with Undecided Voters — But It Will Demotivate Core Democratic Voters

MEMORANDUM
TO:
Interested Parties
FROM: Brian Fallon, Executive Director, Demand Justice
Alissa Stollwerk, Director, YouGov Blue
John Ray, Senior Political Analyst, YouGov Blue
DATE: September 11, 2018

Summary

Though national polls have consistently shown Brett Kavanaugh to be the least popular Supreme Court nominee in more than three decades, Republicans have argued that Democratic senators in Trump-won states will face a backlash from voters in November if they oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination. But a new survey conducted in these Trump-won states by YouGov Blue on behalf of Demand Justice busts the myth that Senate incumbents’ reelection will be negatively impacted by a vote against Kavanaugh.

It is true that support for Kavanaugh’s nomination runs slightly higher in these states than it does nationally, but not by much. More notably, close to a third of voters in these states aren’t sure or don’t know enough about whether Kavanaugh should be confirmed. The idea that there is some kind of groundswell of support for Kavanaugh in these states is simply not true.

Importantly, the overwhelming majority of undecided voters in these states say the Kavanaugh vote will have no effect on their vote for Senate in November. If anything, the most pronounced effect these senators will see from the Kavanaugh fight is a demotivating one among core Democratic voters if these senators support Kavanaugh. Roughly a third of likely Democratic voters call themselves “less likely” to vote for their Democratic senator if he or she votes for Kavanaugh.

Undecided Voters Aren’t Swayed One Way or The Other By Kavanaugh Fight.

Overall, the horserace numbers are tight across states, and all five races we measured are within the margin of error. The largest lead in any of the five states belongs to West Virginia Democrat Manchin, who leads his Republican opponent, Patrick Morrisey, by 7 points in our survey. The number of voters declaring themselves undecided in these Senate contests, or leaning toward a third-party candidate, right now ranges between 9 and 16 percent of all voters.

Importantly, very few of those undecided voters have any opinion at all on Kavanaugh. Those who do split roughly evenly between supporting Kavanaugh and opposing him. When asked specifically how the looming Kavanaugh vote would impact their preference in the Senate contest, the overwhelming majority of undecided voters in all five states say it will have no impact. Of those undecideds who say the Kavanaugh vote may affect their preference for Senate in November, there is parity between the number of them saying a vote against Kavanaugh would make them less likely to reelect their Democratic senator and those saying it would make them more likely. In other words, it nets out as a wash.

Voting for Kavanaugh Has A Demotivating Effect on Core Democratic Voters

While there is no observable electoral impact among undecided voters from the Kavanaugh nomination, the impact on voters already planning to vote for these Senate incumbents could be significant. Roughly a third of voters who identify as supporters of these red-state Democrats say they would be less likely to vote for them if they vote to confirm Kavanaugh:

· In Missouri, 35% of McCaskill voters say they would be less likely to vote for McCaskill if she votes for Kavanaugh.

· In Indiana, 35% of Donnelly voters say they would be less likely to vote for Donnelly if he votes for Kavanaugh.

· In Florida, 31% of Nelson voters say they would be less likely to vote for Nelson if he votes for Kavanaugh.

· In West Virginia, 30% of Manchin voters say they would be likely less to vote for Manchin if he votes for Kavanaugh.

· In North Dakota, 26% of Heitkamp voters say they would be likely less to vote for Heitkamp if she votes for Kavanaugh.

These findings suggest that Democrats who vote for Kavanaugh risk deflating enthusiasm levels among core supporters whose turnout is a necessary ingredient in their path to victory.

Kavanaugh’s Anti-Health Care, Pro-Corporate Views Are Major Vulnerabilities

Many red-state Democrats who are currently undecided on Kavanaugh have been spotlighting health care as a top issue in their reelection campaigns. This issue also represents one of the best arguments against Kavanaugh, who is likely to overturn patient protections if he reaches the Supreme Court.

Our survey confirmed that Kavanaugh’s hostility to the Affordable Care Act is a major liability among voters in these red states. In all five states in our sample, the statement had a net anti-Kavanaugh effect on Democratic, Republican, and undecided/other candidate voters.

We also sought to know whether Kavanaugh’s opinions siding with corporate interests would influence voters’ willingness to support his nomination to the Supreme Court. By a margin of about 5-to-1, undecided/other candidate voters in Florida said such a record would make them less likely rather than more likely to support Kavanaugh (49% of undecided/others who said less likely vs. 9% who said more likely, with 42% undecided). Similar margins held in Indiana (55% of other/undecideds said less likely), Missouri (52% of other/undecideds), with a lower effect among undecideds in North Dakota (30% of undecideds said less likely) and West Virginia (40% of undecideds said less likely). An argument stressing Kavanaugh’s pro-corporate views also has the potential to erode support for him among Republicans. 19% of Republicans in Florida, 24% of Republicans in Indiana, 20% of Republicans in Missouri, 23% of Republicans in North Dakota, and 29% of Republicans in West Virginia all said this statement made them less likely to support Kavanaugh.

Red-State Voters Believe Kavanaugh’s Nomination Should Be Delayed Based on Cohen Guilty Plea and Lack of Kavanaugh’s Records

Our survey also tested two process arguments that opponents of Kavanaugh have used to advocate for his nomination to be delayed.

First, we asked respondents whether they believed, in light of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s guilty plea that implicated Trump in potential crimes, that the Kavanaugh nomination should be delayed until more facts are known or whether it should proceed as planned. Majorities in every state in our sample reported that the first statement — urging a delay — came closer to their own view. In West Virginia, 84% voters who report they are undecided or for a third-party candidate expressed similar levels of concern about this statement. Across Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, and West Virginia, 61%, 64%, 57%, 63%, and 65% of voters who responded to this item reported that their views were closer to preferring a delay than to proceeding with the confirmation process on the basis of this statement.

We also tested whether respondents believed Kavanaugh’s confirmation process should be slowed until all of the documents related to his past work is made available. In West Virginia, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, and Florida, majorities of undecided/other voters agreed (84%, 53%, 59%,70%, and 63% respectively) that the Kavanaugh nomination process should be delayed until his full record is available.

About This Survey

YouGov Blue partnered with Demand Justice to field a survey of 2,636 likely voters in 5 states: Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, and West Virginia. The survey was fielded online from August 24 to September 1, 2018. The data was weighted to a likely voter turnout universe.

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