By Eli Yokley
August 23, 2016 at 5:00 am ET
Voters of all stripes think their preferred presidential candidate winning the White House is the most important thing this year. But aside from that, they want their party to be able to implement its economic agenda and to pick at least two new justices for the Supreme Court.
One of the central arguments for congressional Republicans in supporting Donald Trump, their controversial standard bearer, over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, has been the necessity of controlling Supreme Court nominees. And a new Morning Consult poll shows it’s an issue that animates the base.
While Democratic lawmakers these days hardly utter the name Merrick Garland, President Obama’s stalled nominee for the high court, Republicans have railed against the possibility of Clinton appointing someone more liberal, should she emerge victorious on Election Day.
Among seven prompts – from securing the support of a generation of minority voters to political platforms being enacted – 13 percent of registered voters said their political party’s choice of two new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court was most important to them. Almost two in 10 voters (19 percent) said the party’s economic platform was most important.
While 36 percent of voters said the most important thing this year is their party’s control of the White House, they also see control of the Supreme Court as being important. Almost half (48 percent) said the ability of the next president to choose justices was “very important,” and 27 percent said it was “somewhat important.” When Republicans were asked, nearly six in 10 (58 percent) said the issue was “very important,” several percentage points higher than Democrats (51 percent).
The views of Democrats and Republicans don’t differ much from the general electorate. When Republican voters were asked, 15 percent said the Supreme Court was the most important thing to them. More than one in 10 Democrats (12 percent) also chose the Supreme Court.
Among evangelical voters – who often talk about the Supreme Court in the context of highly emotional social issues like abortion and LGBT rights – 13 percent said the court was the most important thing to them this election year.
Compared with other demographics, the issue of the Supreme Court is most important to wealthier and highly educated voters. Almost one in four registered voters who have a post-graduate degree (24 percent) said the Supreme Court was the most important thing to consider in November, while 27 percent said it’s the presidency.
And as both major parties vie to be the “big tent” party comprised of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints, it’s clear that growing the base with support from the Hispanic and black communities is less important among GOP voters than with Democrats.
While 43 percent of Democrats said gaining widespread support among a generation of Latino voters is very important, 34 percent of Republicans said the same. A quarter of GOP voters said gaining that support was not very important or not important at all.
Similarly, 39 percent of Republicans said it was very important for the party to grow generational support from African Americans, a number that pales in comparison with Democrats, half of whom said it was very important.
After Obama secured another four years in the White House in 2012, Republican National Committee officials said it was vital for the party to make gains with minorities, particularly Latinos. Trump’s immigration rhetoric has not been helpful in that regard, and it appears Republicans are set to lose ground, rather than gain it, with their Hispanic support at the ballot box.