US President Donald Trump and his supreme court nominee judge Amy Coney Barrett at the White House in Washington, the US, September 26 2020. Picture: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA
US President Donald Trump and his supreme court nominee judge Amy Coney Barrett at the White House in Washington, the US, September 26 2020. Picture: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA

Washington — President Donald Trump’s nomination of judge Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court has energised his conservative supporters, but public opinion on abortion, health care 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 US battleground states that decide presidential elections.

But those voters are more likely to align with Democratic positions favouring abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a health-care 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 two-to-one margin, according to the Reuters-Ipsos polling. The polls also show that 56% of suburban women, a demographic 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 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 November 10, a week after the election.

Health insurance

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 favours 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 multimillion-dollar TV advertising 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 advert 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 made its own TV advertisement celebrating Barrett’s “conservative values”.

“It’s a unifying issue on the Right,” Mackowiak said.

Reliably conservative

Barrett, 48, has proven reliably conservative since Trump appointed her to a federal appeals court in 2017. Her confirmation by the Republican-led US Senate would give the Supreme Court a six-three conservative majority.

Trump wants her confirmed before election day, on November 3. Democrats say any nomination should wait for the results of the election and plan to oppose Barrett, a favourite of religious conservatives.

The Reuters-Ipsos poll found that majorities of both independents and undecideds would rather wait to replace Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September, and allow the winner of the presidential election to appoint her successor.

Though Barrett has yet to rule directly on the issue, abortion rights activists fear she would vote as a judge to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe vs Wade Supreme Court decision that legalised abortion nationwide. Overturning the ruling has been a long-standing goal of US 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 vs Wade and restore law that protects the lives of unborn children.”

In a 2017 law review article, she criticised conservative chief justice John Roberts’s 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 such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin who supported Democratic president Barack Obama in 2012 but then flipped to Trump four years later.

As many as 25% of those voters in some states support the right to abortion, according to data compiled by David Wasserman, an analyst for the non-partisan 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 vs Wade and against repealing the ACA,” Wasserman said.

“There’s an opportunity here for Democrats if they message it right.”

Reuters

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