The Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court last week, with three Republicans, including Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, joining all 50 Democrats in backing her.
Asked if they agree or disagree that the Senate should confirm Jackson to the nation’s highest court, less than half of Utahns say they agree.
A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found 47% of voters in the state agree that the Senate should confirm Jackson, including about a third who strongly agree. The survey, conducted before and after the Senate vote on April 7, shows 32% disagree with her confirmation and 21% don’t know.
Jackson is the first Black woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court. She will replace Justice Stephen Breyer, who will retire at the end of the court’s current term in the summer.
“The more center you get in Utah, the more likely you were to support her confirmation,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.
The survey shows a wide gap between Utahns based on party affiliation and political ideology.
According to the poll, 90% of Democrats support Jackson’s confirmation, compared to only 36% of Republicans. Also, 43% of Republicans disagreed with her confirmation and 21% don’t know. Among unaffiliated voters, those who didn’t identify with a political party, 45% support Jackson and 26% do not, though nearly a third said they don’t know.
Perry said that because Republicans, who have a much larger footprint in Utah than Democrats, were so spread out in their response, it brought the overall number supporting Jackson’s confirmation down.
“It has more to do with the number of voters in the Republican Party and unaffiliated voters than it does anything else,” he said.
Those in the poll who identified themselves as conservative overwhelmingly disagree with Jackson’s confirmation, while those who say they are liberal overwhelmingly agree. Moderates tended to lean more to the liberal side with 65% saying they agree with the confirmation.
Utahns also were divided on the basis of sex, with 53% of woman saying they agree that the Senate should confirm Jackson, compared to 40% of men.
Dan Jones & Associates conducted the poll of 804 registered Utah voters from April 5-12. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percentage points.
President Joe Biden made history and held to a campaign promise in choosing a Black woman to fill the Supreme Court’s upcoming vacancy.
A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll conducted in February before Biden announced the nomination of Jackson found 73% of Utahns wanted the president to consider all possible nominees, while 18% wanted him to consider nominees who are Black women as he promised to do.
That poll, too, found a sharp division between Utah Republicans and Democrats. In it, 80% of Republicans said the president should consider all possible candidates, compared to 29% of Democrats.
Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee said it was wrong for Biden to tout Jackson’s race and gender.
While Romney and two other Republicans voted with the Democrats to confirm Jackson, Lee voted against.
“There was a day when you had much more bipartisan support for a nominee than we have now,” Perry said. “This showed there can be some bipartisan support even in the hyper polarized environment.”
Perry said he doesn’t expect much political fallout for either of Utah’s two senators over their votes.
“This vote for Mitt Romney or Mike Lee is not likely going to be a wedge issue or troubling campaign issue,” he said. “It doesn’t appear to be a significant, weighty issue that Republicans are going to either reward or punish that idea.”
After the 53-47 vote, Romney stood alone on the Republican side of the Senate chamber applauding as his GOP colleagues, including Lee, headed for the exit. In a White House event introducing Jackson as the next member of the Supreme Court, Biden thanked Romney, saying he stood up for civil rights like his father did as governor of Michigan in the 1960s.
Romney, who voted against Jackson’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last summer, said he was concerned that she was outside the mainstream but after meeting with her and reviewing her testimony from the confirmation hearings became convinced she’s within the mainstream.
Some conservatives, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., attacked Romney on social media for his vote.
At the same, he drew praise from an NAACP board member.
Lee cited Jackson’s unwillingness to share her judicial philosophy during the hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month among his reasons for opposing her confirmation. He said he found her judicial record “troubling,” especially her handing out “unconscionable and inexplicably” light sentences in child pornography cases.
A nominee who claims to have no judicial philosophy is either being misleading or unsuited for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, Lee said in speech on the Senate floor before the vote.
“A judge without a judicial philosophy is no more useful than a pastor without a theology,” he said. “It’s just someone making it up as they go along, dressing up their opinions as holy writ.”