Washington

Biden’s Supreme Court Pick Has Potential to Motivate Black Voters, Younger Democrats

Black voters are twice as likely as whites to strongly support the president’s plan to nominate a Black woman to Supreme Court

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in April 2021 for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Jackson is thought to be among the top candidates to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court. (Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images)

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement gives President Joe Biden an opportunity to fulfill a campaign promise and put the first Black woman on the highest court in America. The chance to make history also gives Biden the potential to shore up his base support and enthusiasm — especially among Black voters and younger Democrats, who have for months registered tepid backing for his handling of the job.

Voters More Likely to Support Than Oppose Biden’s Plan to Appoint a Black Woman to the Supreme Court

Voters were asked whether they support or oppose Biden’s decision to appoint a Black woman to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court

Poll conducted Jan. 28-30, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,005 registered voters, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

What the numbers say

  • Nearly 7 in 10 Black voters (68 percent) said they support Biden’s decision to appoint a Black woman to replace Breyer, compared with 46 percent of white voters, according to the latest Morning Consult/Politico poll. Black voters are nearly twice as likely as white voters to strongly support the move, 47 percent to 24 percent.
  • Biden’s choice to elevate a Black woman to the Supreme Court — revealed during his primary campaign for president and reaffirmed upon Breyer’s retirement announcement — has support from 51 percent of the overall electorate, including 47 percent of independents and 82 percent of Democrats, with no age gap among the latter cohort. 
  • Fifty-two percent of Republicans oppose Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court, including 36 percent who do so strongly.

The context

Black voters, especially those in South Carolina, effectively delivered Biden’s victory in the Democratic primary. But their support for his presidency waned over his first year in office: Since his inauguration, Biden’s approval rating among Black voters fell from 86 percent to 63 percent, while the share who strongly support his job performance dropped from 65 percent to 27 percent.

His support is also tepid among younger Democratic voters (those under the age of 45) who fueled a surge in voter participation during the 2018 midterm elections and Biden’s victory over Trump. According to the latest survey, younger Democrats are slightly less likely to approve of Biden’s job performance than those 45 and older (76 percent to 82 percent), and are less likely to strongly do so (27 percent to 43 percent).

In turn, the nomination provides a much-needed moment for Biden and the Democrats to try to boost that base enthusiasm ahead of November’s contest.

Younger Democrats Drive Democrats’ 2022 Enthusiasm Gap

Voters were asked how enthusiastic they are about voting in the 2022 midterm elections

Poll conducted Jan. 28-30, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,005 registered voters, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

Voter enthusiasm

  • Black voters are less likely than white voters to say they’re “extremely” or “very” enthusiastic about voting in midterm elections, 37 percent to 50 percent, and a similar gap appears between the youngest and oldest, 39 percent to 55 percent. 
  • Both figures are indicative of the Democratic Party’s enthusiasm problem heading into the campaign season: 56 percent of Republican voters expressed high excitement for the midterms in the latest survey, compared with 47 percent of Democrats.
  • When it comes to the prospect of a Black female justice, Democratic voters are more likely to express excitement (75 percent) about Biden’s plans than Republicans are to say they are angry (40 percent) or worried (46 percent) about it, suggesting the energy behind the choice is higher on the left side of the aisle.

The latest poll was conducted Jan. 28-30, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,005 registered voters, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.