Amid polls showing that Americans are deeply divided along partisan lines over sexual allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, a new survey found the opinions on whether the Supreme Court nominee should be confirmed hinge largely on the FBI’s findings this week.
The Harvard CAPS/Harris survey also found that when people are told that the three named witnesses do not corroborate the accusations of Christine Blasey Ford, opinion shifts decisively in Kavanaugh’s favor.
As The Daily Wire reported Monday, polls by YouGov and Reuters/Ipsos found that people largely believe what benefits their affiliated party: More than two-thirds of Democrats believe the sexual allegations against Kavanaugh, while roughly the same percentage of Republicans do not. Overall, YouGov found that 41% believe Ford and 35% believe Kavanaugh; Reuters found that 42% believe Ford and 31% believe Kavanaugh.
Harris Poll chair Mark Penn, a former Bill Clinton pollster, reported Sunday that the Harris Poll study found that 40% who saw or read parts of the testimonies last Thursday felt that Ford alone seemed credible, while 23% said Kavanaugh alone seemed credible. A total of 27% said that both seemed believable; thus 67% total felt that Ford was credible, while 50% total felt Kavanaugh was credible.
Where the Harris Poll’s study gets really interesting is in its findings on the impact of the FBI investigation and on the issue of corroboration. “[T]he credibility of their testimony does not appear to be the decisive factor,” writes Penn. “Rather, the question comes down to corroboration as the standard for tipping public opinion on whether Kavanaugh should ascend to the high court.”
When respondents were told that the three named witnesses do not corroborate Ford’s claims, 57% said they are in favor of his confirmation. If the FBI finds no corroboration for Ford’s claims, 60% say Kavanaugh should be confirmed. Penn reports:
In terms of the overall needle, after the testimony was heard, 37 percent say confirm the nomination, 44 percent say reject it, and 18 percent remain undecided, with Democrats going one way and Republicans the other. But once the voters are told that the named witnesses deny any knowledge of the allegation, this shifts to 57 percent who favor confirmation — and that goes up to 60 percent, if the FBI agrees there is no corroboration. Remember, because there is no specific “where” or “when” in Ford’s allegation, Kavanaugh cannot establish an alibi — and that’s why corroboration of other facts is so critical.
Given that only the two principals testified on national TV, the information that potential witnesses denied any knowledge was not front-and-center nor as credible without an independent determination that sustains those facts. Without question, if the FBI does find collaborating facts, Kavanaugh would be gone. Either way, FBI Director Chris Wray will now be on the hot seat. Hopefully this will work out better than the last time the country waited for the FBI.
Penn also notes that the poll found deeply partisan responses: 72% of Republicans favor confirmation now; even more, 86%, would favor it if the FBI finds no corroboration. Among Democrats, even if Kavanaugh is cleared by the FBI, 60% would still oppose him.
Penn concludes that the independents are the ones who are most open to changing their view based on the FBI’s findings.