WASHINGTON – Just 1 in 4 people thinks Brett Kavanaugh was completely honest when as a Supreme Court nominee he gave sworn testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, with Republicans and Democrats holding starkly distinct opinions of his credibility, according to a poll released Friday.
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey also found that the public holds tepid views of how major players handled the extraordinary battle, which culminated Oct. 6 in an exhausted Senate’s near party line confirmation of Kavanaugh. President Donald Trump, Senate Republicans and Democrats and the FBI each earned approval from 32 percent or less of the poll’s respondents.
Overall, 39 percent said they believe Kavanaugh was mostly honest but was hiding something when he testified last month before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the drama’s most unforgettable day. Another 31 percent said he was largely lying, and 25 percent said he was totally truthful. A combative Kavanaugh denied California college professor Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony to the committee that he sexually assaulted her at a 1980s high school gathering when they were teenagers, and he rebutted classmates’ descriptions of him as a heavy drinker.
The question was among several that underscored how stances over the searing confirmation battle are deeply colored by people’s political allegiances and less so by gender. Republicans hope partisan tensions heightened by the fight will drive conservative voters to the polls in the Nov. 6 elections, when GOP control of the House and the Senate is at stake.
Six in 10 Republicans, including 57 percent of men and 64 percent of women, said they think Kavanaugh was entirely truthful when he appeared before the Judiciary panel. They included Ricky Richards, who took the survey and agreed to explain his views in a subsequent interview.
Richards said he believed Kavanaugh, citing repeated FBI background checks that unearthed no wrongdoing, testimony from supportive witnesses and the body language of Kavanaugh and his wife at the crucial Judiciary session.
“He was angry, but he handled himself better than I would have,” said Richards, a 59-year-old engineering consultant from Clifton, Texas.
He said Ford’s testimony seemed “purely scripted,” and he faulted her for not recalling some details of what she says happened to her, which experts have said is common for trauma victims.
Fewer than 1 in 10 Democrats, men and women, said they think Kavanaugh was fully candid during his appearance. Just over half said he was mostly lying while the rest said he was largely truthful but was hiding something.
“It’s just the way he presented himself, the way he answered questions. He was so defensive,” said Barbara Heath, a 60-year-old Democrat and former factory worker from Springfield, Ohio. “To me, he was covering up a lot of things.”
Overall, 43 percent disapprove of Kavanaugh’s confirmation while 35 percent approve. More independents disapprove than support his confirmation, 35 percent to 17 percent, while the remaining respondents do not have a strong opinion either way.
Forty percent of all men approve of Kavanaugh’s elevation to the high court, while only 30 percent of women do. Yet party identification washes much of that difference away: Around three-quarters of Republican men and women favor Kavanaugh’s confirmation, a view shared by only about 1 in 10 Democrats of both genders.
Americans are about evenly divided over whether the Judiciary panel treated Kavanaugh fairly. In contrast, 42 percent thought the committee was unfair to Ford while 30 percent said it was fair to her. Nearly two-thirds of college-educated women said Ford was treated unfairly, a potentially damaging finding for House Republicans defending competitive suburban districts in next month’s elections.
The poll also found that:
The role played by Trump, who nominated Kavanaugh in July and criticized Ford and another accuser, was strongly or somewhat approved by 32 percent, about the same rating given to Senate Republicans. Senate Democrats won such approval from just 24 percent.
Only 3 in 10 said the FBI did a good job. Trump hurriedly ordered the agency to perform a brief investigation of the sexual-harassment allegations against Kavanaugh and said it found no corroboration in a probe Democrats criticized as insufficient.
Around 1 in 3 said that since Kavanaugh’s confirmation they have a lot of confidence in the Supreme Court. The rest have only some or hardly any confidence in the nation’s highest court.
Eight in 10 Democrats, compared to 6 in 10 Republicans, said a Supreme Court nominee’s personal history and character are extremely or very important.
The AP-NORC poll was conducted Oct. 11-14 by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, with funding from The Associated Press and NORC at the University of Chicago. It involved interviews conducted in English and Spanish with 1,152 adults nationwide. Interviews were conducted online or by phone among members of NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population.
The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
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