Latest PPP survey shows Clinton up by 2, Grassley by 6

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton leads Republican Donald Trump by 45 percent to 43 percent in a two-way race, and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley leads Democratic challenger Patty Judge by 49 percent to 43 percent, according to a Public Policy Polling survey of 827 "likely voters" in Iowa on August 30 and 31. PPP conducted the poll on behalf of We Need Nine, which advocates for filling the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy as a project of the Constitutional Responsibility Project. (That advocacy group has spent $31,273 so far against Grassley.)

PPP did not include minor-party presidential candidates in its ballot test, and at this writing no cross-tabs are available to shed light on Clinton's narrow lead over Trump. The main purpose of the survey was to gauge support for Grassley and Iowa voters' opinions on the Supreme Court vacancy.

For those wondering about priming effects--that is, whether the pollster "primed" respondents to evaluate Grassley on this issue in order to reduce his lead over Judge--PPP asked respondents about the Senate race before the series of questions about judicial confirmations. It's worth noting that PPP did some internal polling for Judge's campaign before the Democratic primary in June.

Buzzfeed's Chris Geidner was first to report on this survey. I enclose below excerpts from PPP's polling memo and other findings from the survey.

From Yujia Sun's memo on PPP surveys conducted for We Need Nine in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Iowa:

53% of New Hampshire voters, 51% of Pennsylvania voters, and 50% of Iowa voters agree that the empty seat should be filled by President Obama this calendar year as opposed to the following year when the next President takes office, as Senate Republicans have proposed for the last 175 days. And, by margins of 27 points in New Hampshire (56/29), 25 points in Pennsylvania (56/31), and 26 points in Iowa (56/30), voters say that the Senate should uphold its constitutional duty and have confirmation hearings for President Obama’s nominee Judge Garland to fill the vacancy.

[...] voters are committed to taking action at the ballot box this November, with a plurality of voters across all three states (39% in New Hampshire, 36% in Pennsylvania, and 40% in Iowa) saying they would be less likely to vote for their incumbent Republican senators if they opposed holding hearings for Garland.

Additional findings from the survey include:

- Independent voters are strongly in favor of ending the gridlock over Judge Garland’s nomination. In all three states (54% in NH, 53% in PA, and 58% in IA), a majority of Independents believe that the Senate should hold confirmation hearings for Garland. [...]

PPP surveyed 585 likely New Hampshire voters, 814 likely Pennsylvania voters, and 827 likely Iowa voters from August 30-31, 2016. The margin of error is +/-4.1% for the New Hampshire survey, +/-3.4% for the Pennsylvania survey, and +/-3.4% for the Iowa survey. 80% of interviews for the poll were conducted over the phone with 20% interviewed over the internet to reach respondents who don’t have landline telephones.

One survey question informed respondents, "Until this year, it has never taken more than 125 days for the Senate to take a vote on a Supreme Court nominee," then asked about "an appropriate length of time for the Senate to consider and vote on a President’s nominee to fill an open Supreme Court seat: 25 days or less, between 25 and 50 days, between 50 and 100 days, between 100 and 150 days, between 150 and 200 days, or more than 200 days." Some 77 percent of Iowa respondents said voting on the nominee should take 150 days or less.

Respondents split roughly evenly on whether President Barack Obama should be able to fill the Supreme Court vacancy this year (50 percent), or whether "the seat should be left empty until the next President takes office" (47 percent). But 56 percent said the Senate should have held confirmation hearings on Judge Merrick Garland; only 30 percent said the president's Supreme Court nominee should be rejected with no hearings.

Some 40 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for Grassley if he "opposed having confirmation hearings for Judge Merrick Garland to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia." Some 26 percent said that would make them more likely to vote for Grassley, while 28 percent said that issue would make no difference.

Some 51 percent of respondents agreed more with the statement that "Chuck Grassley is playing politics" by refusing to hold confirmation hearings for Garland, while 42 percent agreed more than "Chuck Grassley is doing what’s in the best interest of the country."

Asked about "92 vacancies in lower federal Courts that have not been filled because Senate Republicans have shut down confirmation hearings of any nominees named by President Obama," 52 percent of respondents disapproved of GOP senators "refusing to allow votes on President Obama’s nominees to lower federal Courts," while 38 percent approved of that action.

PPP's survey did not mention that in his first year as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley presided over the lowest number of judicial confirmations in more than half a century, but Judge's campaign should bring up that part of Grassley's record often. The senator often explains his obstruction by saying we're in the final year of Obama's presidency. What's his excuse for not moving more judicial nominees forward in 2015?

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