WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court has energized his conservative supporters, but public opinion on abortion, healthcare and other hot-button issues the court may face could work against him in the November election, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling.
Trailing Democrat Joe Biden in national opinion polls, the Republican Trump hopes to build enthusiasm for his re-election among undecided and independent voters, especially in U.S. battleground states that decide presidential elections.
But those voters are more likely to align with Democratic positions favoring abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act(ACA), a healthcare law popularly known as Obamacare, and may be turned off by the appointment of a conservative judge at odds with their views, according to the polling conducted in September and released this week.
Among both independent and undecided voters, those who want abortion to remain legal outnumber those who do not by nearly a 2-to-1 margin, according to the Reuters/Ipsos polling. The polls also show that 56 percent of suburban women, a demographic that Trump has been courting, support abortion rights.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll found that Obamacare, which Trump has vowed to scrap, is backed by six of 10 registered independent and undecided voters. It also is relatively popular among groups that Trump usually relies on for support, such as whites without a college degree, half of whom say the law should be retained.
Obamacare is on the high court docket on Nov. 10, a week after the election.
The Trump administration has sued to overturn the law. If the Supreme Court strikes down the law, more than 20 million Americans would lose their health insurance outright and millions more could have reduced coverage.
The Biden campaign has made the uncertain future of Obamacare a staple of its messaging. The law requires insurance companies to cover consumers with pre-existing conditions at affordable rates. Biden favors expanding Obamacare by allowing consumers to buy into a government-run health plan.
Priorities USA, a political-action committee that backs Biden, has launched a multi-million-dollar TV ad campaign in Midwestern states that highlights Trump’s efforts to “gut” Obamacare in the Supreme Court.
The Democratic National Committee meanwhile has launched another TV ad that warns Trump is trying to “rush through” a nominee who would strip away protection for chronic health conditions and COVID-19.
But Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist in Texas, said Barrett’s nomination could solidify support for Trump among Catholics and women voters who may be alienated by Trump’s personal conduct but prefer a conservative on the high court.
The Trump campaign has cut its own TV advertisement celebrating Barrett’s “conservative values.”
“It’s a unifying issue on the right,” Mackowiak said.
Barrett, 48, has proven reliably conservative since Trump appointed her to a federal appeals court in 2017. Her confirmation by the Republican-led U.S. Senate would give the Supreme Court a 6-3 conservative majority.
Trump wants her confirmed before Election Day, Nov. 3. Democrats say any nomination should wait for the results of the election and plan to oppose Barrett, a favorite of religious conservatives.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll found that majorities of both independents and undecideds would rather wait to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month, and allow the winner of the presidential election to appoint her successor.
Although Barrett has yet to rule directly on the issue, abortion rights activists fear she would vote as a justice to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Overturning the ruling has been a longstanding goal of U.S. religious conservatives.
In 2006 she signed on to an advertisement in an Indiana newspaper calling for the ruling to be overturned. It said: “It’s time to put an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade and restore law that protects the lives of unborn children.”
In a 2017 law review article, she criticized conservative Chief Justice John Roberts’ 2012 ruling preserving Obamacare, writing that he pushed the 2010 act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.
Biden’s campaign has made a priority of winning back voters in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin who supported Democratic President Barack Obama in 2012 but then flipped to Trump four years later.
As many as 25 percent of those voters in some states support the right to abortion, according to data compiled by David Wasserman, an analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Report.
Many of those Obama-Trump voters in the Midwest strayed to Trump over issues such as trade and immigration, “but they’re still pro-Roe v. Wade and against repealing the ACA,” Wasserman said.
“There’s an opportunity here for Democrats if they message it right.”
– The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States from Sept. 22-24 and Sept. 25-29. It gathered responses from 2,638 U.S. adults during that period and has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about 2-3 percentage points.
(Reporting by Chris Kahn and James Oliphant, Editing by Ross Colvin and Howard Goller)