Wed. 8:49 a.m.: AP-NORC Poll: Many indifferent to Kavanaugh nomination

The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh on Sept. 4.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Does Brett Kavanaugh belong on the Supreme Court? It’s a question that may be consuming Washington, but one that elicits a shrug from many Americans. And there’s also no nationwide consensus on whether the Senate should vote on his nomination before Election Day.

That’s according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, released this morning, that finds nearly half of Americans — 46 percent — don’t have a strong opinion on President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the high court.

That ambivalence runs even deeper among independent voters, as fully two-thirds say they’ve not formed an opinion on whether the federal appeals court judge deserves a promotion. Some people who haven’t yet formed an opinion say they need more information.

While the parties have clashed over whether Kavanaugh should receive a vote before Election Day, Americans are evenly divided on that question: 51 percent saying go now and 48 percent preferring lawmakers wait until after voters have cast their ballots.

Count Bob Tomlinson, 61, of Three Rivers, Michigan, among the indifferent undecideds. He doesn’t have an opinion on when the Senate should vote, but he has read some concerns about Kavanaugh’s views on executive authority and whether a sitting president can be indicted “or held accountable even.”

“I do want to learn a little bit more before I make up my mind on the guy,” he said.

Tomlinson and the rest of the county will get that chance next week, when the Senate Judiciary Committee begins confirmation hearings on Kavanaugh’s nomination. Republicans hope to have Trump’s nominee confirmed by the start of the court’s new session on Oct. 1.

The tepid interest is a world away from Washington, where the partisan combat over Kavanaugh has been red hot.

Conservative groups are spending millions on television ads designed to pressure Democratic senators to buck their party and support Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The ads mostly target voters in Indiana, West Virginia, Alabama and North Dakota, all states Trump handily won in 2016. Meanwhile, liberal groups are running anti-Kavanaugh ads in Maine and Alaska in the hope that Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who support abortion rights, will decide to vote no.

Among all Americans, those who do have an opinion divide about evenly, with 25 percent in favor of Kavanaugh’s elevation to Supreme Court justice and 29 percent opposed. Those opinions are divided primarily by partisan lines.