Amy Coney Barrett is the least popular Supreme Court nominee in recent history

THE SUPREME COURT has in recent years gained an almost mythical status in American politics. With its extraordinary power—justices are appointed for life and have the final say on the meaning of the constitution, the supreme law of the land—politicians and activists alike view a nomination for the bench as the ultimate political accomplishment. That is why the likely confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s pick to fill the seat of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has the potential to upend the presidential race.

Ms Barrett’s Senate confirmation hearings began on October 12th with Americans sharply divided over her nomination. According to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, a pollster, a large majority of Republicans (83%) want her confirmed, but only a tiny fraction of Democrats (8%) agree. Overall, more Americans oppose Ms Barrett’s confirmation (46%) than support it (42%). Indeed, according to polling data compiled by The Economist, net approval for Ms Barrett’s nomination, at minus four points, is lower than for any Supreme Court candidate in more than three decades. The only justice that comes close is Brett Kavanaugh, Mr Trump’s most recent nominee whose confirmation was plagued by allegations of sexual assault.

This disapproval may have little to do with Ms Barrett herself. According to a recent survey by YouGov, another pollster, just 37% of Americans support filling Justice Ginsburg’s seat this year, compared with 42% who would favour waiting until after the election.

The worry among Democrats is that if Ms Barrett is successfully confirmed, creating a 6-3 conservative majority on the bench, many of the court’s landmark decisions will be swiftly overturned. This concern is shared by many across the political spectrum. According to YouGov’s poll, a majority of voters oppose the Supreme Court striking down Roe v Wade, the ruling from 1973 that recognised the right to abortion (Ms Barrett, a committed Catholic, has said that “abortion is always immoral”, and some Republican senators believe she would vote to rescind Roe v Wade). YouGov also found that half of voters oppose ruling against the Affordable Care Act, Barack Obama’s health-care law.

Most previous nominees for the Supreme Court have sailed through the process rather uneventfully. Ms Barrett may be headed for stormy waters.

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