Public Wise and Change Research examine how the framing and language for survey around President Biden’s commitment to appointing a Black woman to the Supreme Court changes polling response
Addie Bullock, ABullock@bluestate.co
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new national poll released today by Public Wise, a voting rights organization fighting for a government that works for all, reveals that a majority of voters support President Biden’s decision to appoint a Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace Justice Breyer, but the way questions are framed influences the responses, and in some cases may lead to misrepresentations of public opinion on this issue. The poll, conducted in partnership with Change Research, was conducted February 6-8, 2022 and surveyed 3,707 Americans across all political affiliations.
The survey asked four different questions about President Biden’s upcoming Supreme Court selection with slightly different framing and language, each shown to 25% of the sample. The poll revealed that a majority of people are willing to support the idea of adding diversity to the Supreme Court and a plurality are in favor of President Biden keeping his campaign promises. However, most individuals surveyed were not supportive when asked about appointing a Black woman to the Supreme Court framed in a way that suggests a diversity quota or set aside. Polling found that 63.7% are following President Biden’s Supreme Court selection very closely or somewhat closely, with a consistent split between individuals self-identifying as progressive, liberal, moderate, and conservative.
The survey found that respondents who self-identify as liberal or progressive were largely in support of appointing a Black woman to the Supreme Court across all question groups, but were slightly less likely to respond positively to a question framed around quotas and set asides. Respondents identifying as conservatives were the most likely to answer in the negative regardless of the question framing, while moderates were largely in support of appointing a Black woman to the Court when the question framed the issue as one of generally increasing court diversity or President Biden honoring his campaign promises and responded negatively to questions that frame the issue as one of meeting diversity quotas. Respondents who are paying some or close attention to the news on this issue were more likely to have an opinion, while those who report not paying attention were more likely to respond “not sure” regardless of the question framing.
The findings from the Public Wise and Change Research polling contradict a recent survey from ABC News and Ipsos that found that 76% of Americans want President Biden to consider “all potential nominees” for the Supreme Court and only 23% of respondents in support of following through on the President’s previous pledge to nominate a Black woman. Meanwhile, a poll from Morning Consult and Politico found that 51% of voters strongly or somewhat support Biden’s decision to appoint a Black woman to fill Justice Breyer’s seat.
“The framing and phrasing of polling questions is critical to ensuring accurate results, particularly around highly politicized topics like this. The next Supreme Court justice will shape judicial decisions that will impact generations of Americans. Polling dictates public opinion, shapes messaging for both sides of the aisle and can influence the votes of the members of Congress charged with approving President Biden’s nominee. These decisions should not be influenced by inconsistent and inaccurate polling,” said Dr. Jessica Kalbfeld, Research Director of Public Wise.
Change Research conducted an online poll of 3,707 adults, with a margin of error +/- percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The margin of error for the split for each question frame is +/- 4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
A detailed summary of key findings from Public Wises’ poll can be found here.