People For the American Way

Trump Campaign Autopsy of Battleground States Finds that SCOTUS Mattered More to Biden Voters than to Trump Voters

News and Analysis
Trump Campaign Autopsy of Battleground States Finds that SCOTUS Mattered More to Biden Voters than to Trump Voters

As reported by Politico, the Trump campaign has an “autopsy” of his 2020 election defeat, with poll data showing why the former president lost. Among the findings is that in 10 key battleground states, the Supreme Court as an issue motivated Biden voters more than Trump voters.

This is consistent with other research from the election and is more evidence of an ongoing change in American politics: As Republican-appointed justices and judges do more and more harm to people, the courts are becoming a winning issue for Democrats.

The “autopsy” is based on polling from 10 battleground states Trump carried in 2016, five of which flipped to the Democratic ticket in 2020.  The states were Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Both in states that flipped to Biden and those that didn’t, an average of 90% of voters said the Supreme Court was a factor in their choice. In the swing states that Biden won, he won these voters by a margin of 52-46. But the issue also helped him in the states Trump won, where voters concerned about the Court went for Biden 51-48. (Among the 10 percent of voters in all 10 battleground states who were not influenced by the Supreme Court, Trump won overwhelmingly.)

As the campaign report concludes, the impact of the Supreme Court on voters was “a change vs. four years ago.”

This is not the first research to make that finding. Last fall, exit polling showed that a majority of voters who considered the Supreme Court an important factor in their vote chose Joe Biden over Donald Trump, a change from many previous elections when conservative and Republican voters cared more about the Court. What the Trump campaign’s data demonstrates is that this trend holds true not just on a national basis, but in swing states in particular.

This should not come as a surprise. As covered in People For the American Way’s Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears series (which is searchable by judge or by issue here), Trump’s judges have reliably been putting the interests of the powerful ahead of the rights of the rest of us in areas including corporate power, police violence, access to health care, racial justice, and LGBTQ+ equality.

Trump may be gone, but his judges remain positioned to continue their assaults on our rights and our lives for decades to come.

That is why it is vitally important for President Biden to nominate – and for the Senate to confirm – highly qualified judges who recognize that the law should protect all of us, not just the powerful. As White House Counsel Dana Remus stated during the transition, the Biden administration is:

…particularly focused on nominating individuals whose legal experiences have been historically underrepresented on the federal bench, including those who are public defenders, civil rights and legal aid attorneys, and those who represent Americans in every walk of life.

History shows that federal courts can empower the marginalized and protect individuals and communities from being victimized by the powerful. As People For wrote in a December 2020 letter to the transition:

From the 1930s-1980s, federal courts drove a stake into Jim Crow when elected officials were still standing in the schoolhouse door; held that people arrested by the police have a right to an attorney; imposed much-needed limitations on abuses by law enforcement; prevented states from criminalizing private decisions such as those involving abortion and contraception; recognized our right to impose reasonable limits on corporations’ treatment of working people, the safety of consumer products, and manufacturing’s effects on the quality of our air and water; and much more.

We are looking forward to judicial nominees with a demonstrated commitment to civil and human rights, since protecting those rights is the primary reason our courts exist. We are looking forward to judicial nominees who will understand the lived experiences of those whose cases would come before them.

This is a vision of the courts that helped Joe Biden win the election.