A new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds that a plurality of Americans view the Supreme Court as motivated by partisanship, while President Joe Biden's campaign trail vow to select a Black woman to fill a high-court vacancy without reviewing all potential candidates evokes a sharply negative reaction from voters.
The ABC News/Ipsos poll, which was conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News using Ipsos' KnowledgePanel, comes days after the most senior member of the Supreme Court, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, announced his retirement at the end of the current term. Breyer's announcement provides Biden the opportunity to change the demographic makeup of the conservative-leaning bench.
During the spring 2020 presidential primaries, days before his set of big wins on Super Tuesday, Biden pledged to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court, if elected. Now, with the chance to do so, just over three-quarters of Americans (76%) want Biden to consider "all possible nominees." Just 23% want him to automatically follow through on his history-making commitment that the White House seems keen on seeing through. At a ceremony honoring the retiring justice, Biden told reporters he is able to honor his promise without compromising on quality.
"The person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity. And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court," Biden said. "It's long overdue in my view. I made that commitment during the campaign for president, and I will keep that commitment."
Although the poll's sample size was not large enough to break out results for Black people, only a little more than 1 in 4 nonwhite Americans (28%) wish for Biden to consider only Black women for the vacancy. Democrats are more supportive of Biden's vow (46%) than Americans as a whole, but still a majority of Democrats (54%) also prefer that Biden consider all possible nominees.
Democrats hope that the nomination will re-engage Democrats, who are sorely in need of a boost in the run-up to what is shaping up to be a very challenging midterm election for the party.
Also, when it comes to assessments of the Supreme Court, 43% of voters believe justices rule "on the basis of their partisan political views" rather than "on the basis of the law," a position held by only 38% of respondents. Eighteen percent did not know enough to express a view one way or the other.
And this new ABC/Ipsos poll shows high disapproval of Biden's handling of a range of issues.
A glaring weak spot for Biden is inflation, where 69% of Americans disapprove of his handling of this key issue. Speaking in Pittsburgh Friday, Biden acknowledged the crush of inflation, pitching his Build Back Better social spending plan as part of the remedy.
"Inflation is a problem," said Biden. "It's real and a lot of people are being hurt by it."
Troublingly for the White House, only 1% of Americans view the state of the nation's economy as "excellent,"and only 23% say it's "good." Three out of four Americans said the state of the economy was "not so good / poor."
Biden sees other troublesome disapproval numbers surrounding his handling of gun violence (69%), crime (64%), immigration (64%), the situation with Russia and Ukraine (56%) and the country's economic recovery (56%.)
The country is split on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with 50% approving and 49% disapproving. And while support from Democrats trends higher than the population as a whole, Biden's support within his own ranks is softening. In August, 91% of Democrats approved of Biden's handling of the pandemic. Now, that figure has dropped to 82%. The drop in support among Democrats around Biden's handling of the economic recovery is even clearer, from 89% in August to 73% now.
As the U.S. weighs its options on the escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine, Americans are less clear where they stand on the issue of sending ground troops to Eastern Europe to try to discourage a Russian invasion of Ukraine. One in three (32%) Americans "don't know" enough to say while 38% oppose sending group troops and 29% support it.
Biden said Friday that he plans on moving troops into NATO allied nations in the "near term." Biden is to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the coming weeks and will discuss Russia's building agitation, according to the White House.
This ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted using Ipsos Public Affairs' KnowledgePanel® January 28-29, 2022, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 510 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 4.9 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 27-26-37%, Democrats-Republicans-independents. See the poll's topline results and details on the methodology here.
ABC News' Dan Merkle and Ken Goldstein contributed to this report.