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5 in 6 Americans See Potential SCOTUS Vacancy as "Important" to their Vote for President

With such high interest in SCOTUS, Fix the Court hopes the high court plays a more central role in upcoming Democratic and Republican debates

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nationwide surveys of 2016 likely general election voters conducted by McLaughlin & Associates for Fix the Court have found that five in six Americans believe a Supreme Court nomination to be important to their vote for president a year from now.

Questions about the court’s relevance to Americans’ voting preferences were posed in two ways. From Oct. 23-27, 1,001 likely voters were asked: “It’s the President’s role to appoint Supreme Court justices, and when the next President takes office, three of the nine justices will be over 80 years old. How important is the potential for a Supreme Court appointment in your presidential vote?”

The results were unambiguous: 87.3 percent of respondents said a potential SCOTUS appointment was “important” – with a higher percentage saying it was “very important” (49.4 percent) vs. “somewhat important” (37.9 percent). Only 6.4 percent said it was “not important at all.”

A month earlier, without prompting for the justices’ advanced ages, similar results were reached. “It’s the President’s role to appoint Supreme Court justices,” began the question, asked to 1,003 likely primary voters Sept. 18-22. “How important is the potential for a Supreme Court appointment in your presidential vote?”

Here, 83.8 percent of respondents said it was “important” – split nearly evenly between “very important” and “somewhat important” (42.7/41.1 percent) – while only 9.6 percent said it was “not important at all.”

With both versions of the question, there was little difference in the results among voters who identify with different parties, ideologies, races, age groups or genders.

“No matter how you pose the question, it’s clear that a potential Supreme Court vacancy is on the mind of voters across the country,” said Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth. “With the court in recent years deciding fundamental cases on marriage, voting, health care and the death penalty – issues that only a decade or two ago would have most likely been resolved by the other two branches – it’s no wonder such a high percentage of Americans are concerned with the future of the Supreme Court.”

Fix the Court is releasing these numbers ahead of a number of milestones: a presidential candidates’ forum for the Democrats this Friday in South Carolina, a Nov. 10 GOP debate in Wisconsin and a Nov. 14 Democratic debate in Iowa. Additionally, Nov. 8 marks one year until the general election.

“It’s my hope that those who have the chance to speak with presidential candidates from both parties, whether they be debate moderators or average citizens, will impress upon the candidates the impact the next President will have in shaping the high court,” Roth added.

A handful of presidential candidates have expressed their desire, consistent with Fix the Court’s “Come to Terms” campaign, to end life tenure for the justices, though few, if any, have gone on record saying they’d support an end to the broadcast media ban in the courtroom, the creation of a code of ethics for the justices or a more robust system of financial disclosure for the nine. All of Fix the Court’s “fixes” – including term limits – are supported by at least two-thirds of Americans.

To read the polling memo from McLaughlin & Associates, which includes a more detailed demographic breakdown of the results, please visit this link.

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