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Parsing Sotomayor’s Declining Poll Numbers


The recent Rasmussen poll that found a significant deterioration in the level of support for Supreme Court nominee Sonya Sotomayor warrants a tad more scrutiny.

In a poll conducted May 26–27 Rasmussen found that likely voters wanted to confirm Sotomayor by the margin of 45% to 29%. This was an underwhelming margin, to be sure, given all the laudatory media coverage, and may have been an early warning sign that Sotomayor could be vulnerable.

A month later that 16-point advantage has disappeared. Rasmussen’s June 29–30 survey found that support for her confirmation has fallen 8 points, to 37%, while opposition has risen 10 points to 39%.

The cross tabs tell an interesting story. The biggest movement against Sotomayor comes from the following voter groups:

Women: In the May poll women supported Sotomayor’s confirmation 45% to 24%. Now they oppose it 31% for to 40% against. Feminists take note. That’s a dramatic, and unexpected, 30-point turnaround.


Age 30-39:  In May this age group supported her confirmation by a two to one margin (49% to 24%). Now these 30-somethings oppose her promotion to the High Court – only 29% support her now while 47% oppose her – a decisive 43-point negative shift.

Independents: (Note: Rasmussen refers to unaffiliated voters as “other.” I’ll refer to them here as Independents.) In May, Independents gave Sotomayor about the same level of support as the country as a whole (41% to 29%); now they oppose her by more than a two-to-one margin, 23% to 49%, a 38-point turnaround for the worse.


By race: Though blacks still support her by a solid margin, 57% to 13%, that margin is down from 71% to 4% in May, a 23-point drop. Similarly, the racial group Rasmussen calls “other” (which presumably includes Hispanics and Asians) supported her 48% to 25% in May but now opposes her confirmation 32% to 43%, a negative swing of 34 points.

Rasmussen also picked up a negative movement in her favorability ratings. In May, a few more voters checked the “very favorable” box (20%) than the “very unfavorable” one (17%). By late June, she was upside-down on this important measure, with only 14% very favorably disposed toward her and 24% very unfavorably disposed.

What accounts for this deterioration in her support? Rasmussen’s other questions preclude some likely explanations. He found practically zero movement in the percentage of voters who say they are following her nomination “somewhat closely” or “very closely,” so it’s not a function of more people tuning in to the debate. The voters’ perception of whether she is a liberal, moderate, or conservative was also largely unchanged, so it’s not a matter of more voters having reassessed their initial perception of her.

Clearly, her strong commitment to the race-preference regime, which received extensive (and unwelcome) media coverage when the High Court reversed her decision in the New Haven firefighters’ case, has damaged her. And her belief that her Latina racial heritage and personal upbringing makes her a better judge than white males is profoundly out of sync with the views of large majorities of Americans.

Senators from states with profoundly conservative constituencies should ponder all this as her nomination moves forward.


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