For immediate release:  September 4, 2018
ST. LEO, FL –  Just over 40 percent of Americans surveyed recently by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (http:/ support the confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, whose confirmation hearings began Tuesday morning in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. This percentage amounts to nearly twice the number who say they oppose the nomination, with one-third of those surveyed unsure what to think.

President Donald J. Trump nominated Kavanaugh in July to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. The nomination was then included among topics in the polling institute’s summer survey.

Nationally, more than half of the 1,000 Americans polled between August 10 and August 16 say they are following this nomination and confirmation process either very closely, at 27.4 percent, or somewhat closely, at 28.6 percent, for a combined base of 56 percent. In Florida, the combined population of those watching is a bit higher at 62 percent, with 33 percent of those responding saying they are watching it somewhat closely and 29 percent saying they are watching very closely. The polling institute routinely surveys residents of the politically important state of Florida, which is home to Saint Leo University and its polling institute.

The national survey base of 1,000 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The Florida results are calculated from a parallel sample of 500 adults who took the same survey at the same time, and the results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

The fact that 56 percent of respondents are very or somewhat interested in Kavanaugh’s nomination suggests the process is indeed important to the nation, said Joseph Cillo, JD, a member of the criminal justice faculty at Saint Leo who follows the Supreme Court closely. Frank Orlando, director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute concurred. “It is surprising that over half of the respondents are paying attention to this” Orlando said. “It’s a sign of how politicized our climate has become that there are as many, if not more people, paying attention to the Kavanaugh confirmation as will vote in the midterm election.” Orlando is a political scientist with an expertise in voting and campaigns.

Cillo found another finding intriguing, as well. He also said the fact that another 33.9 percent are not paying attention might be “because they do not object to the process …some of them actually approve of the nominee.” To put it another way, Cillo sees tacit approval in place among some of the respondent base.

The survey also asked all respondents explicitly:

Based on all you know or have heard; do you support the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh

 to the United States Supreme Court by the United States Senate?

Possible responses U.S. – % FL – %
Yes 40.6 47
No 22.8 20.2
Unsure 36.6 32.8

Respondents were also asked about what characteristics, from a list of 15, they consider most important in a new U.S. Supreme Court Justice. They were allowed to cite more than one. Nationally and in Florida, “knowledge of the law” was chosen most often by more than 70 percent of respondents, at 72 percent nationally, and nearly 77 percent in Florida. That was followed closely by “common sense,” selected by more than 60 percent of respondents, in the 65-to-66 percent range in both samples. Support for abortion rights was near the bottom, selected by slightly more than 21 percent in both samples. Support for the right to own firearms was selected only 20.3 percent of the time nationally, but 26.6 percent of the time among the Floridians.  As for a nominee being identifiably conservative or liberal, those characteristics were chosen least often. Conservative was chosen more often, though, as a desirable characteristic, in around 19 to 23 percent of cases, compared to liberal, appearing in around 12 to 13 percent of answers.

This ranking surprised Cillo, the Saint Leo faculty member who focuses on legal topics. “What strikes me as unexpected is that the poll showed as of little or no importance the topics of abortion and the right to own firearms. Both of these topics have been extensively covered by national news outlets,” Cillo noted.

Who Likes and Dislikes the Choice of Nominee
Looking at different parts of the population, levels of support vary significantly according to political party. Among Republicans, 70.5 percent say they support Kavanaugh—basically 30 percentage points above the 40.6 percent overall average, while only 22.9 percent of Democrats do. Independent voters, of whom 35.8 percent support the nominee, come closer to the U.S. average.

The way respondents broadly described their political views also made big differences in whether or not they support the Kavanaugh nomination. Of conservatives, support was recorded at 71.2 percent, compared to 29.4 percent among moderates, and 14.3 percent among liberals.

Gender made a difference, though not as dramatically. Among women, support for the nominee is 10 points lower than the overall average, at 30.4 percent. Among men, the support was more than 10 points higher, at 51.9 percent.

Those who identify as Catholic, non-Catholic Christians, or generally religious, support the nominee at levels in the 50-percent range, with Catholics showing the highest proportion of supporters at 54.5 percent of the group. For those of other religions, or who say they are not religious, support was 27.2 percent and 22.3 percent, respectively.

Also, racial identity makes a difference in this matter. Support for Kavanaugh among African-Americans is 26.8 percent; for Hispanics, 49.7 percent; and for whites, 42.6 percent, or right around the overall average.

Cillo predicted Kavanaugh will be confirmed, and will “secure the conservative nature” of the Supreme Court “for the next generation.”

About the Poll
METHODOLOGY: The poll sampled opinions of 1,000 respondents nationwide. The survey was conducted August 10 through August 16, 2018. All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument. The poll has a +/- 3.0 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level (on a composite basis) with questions asked of all 1,000.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.

Media contacts: Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-8237 or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).
Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-7118 or (813) 610-8416 (cell/text).


More About Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University ( is a modern Catholic teaching university that is firmly grounded in the liberal arts tradition and the timeless Benedictine wisdom that seeks balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit. The Saint Leo University of today is a private, nonprofit institution that creates hospitable learning communities wherever students want to be or need to be, whether that is a campus classroom, a web-based environment, an employer’s worksite, a military base, or an office park. Saint Leo welcomes people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation, and encourages learners of all generations. The university is committed to providing educational opportunities to the nation’s armed forces, veterans, and their families. Saint Leo is regionally accredited to award degrees ranging from the associate to the doctorate, and the faculty and staff guide all students to develop their capacities for critical thinking, moral reflection, and lifelong learning and leadership.

The university remains the faithful steward of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where its founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving more than 13,000 students, Saint Leo has expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintains a physical presence in seven states. The university provides highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 93,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.