Supreme Court Appointments: Judge Bork and the Politicization of Senate Confirmations

By Norman Vieira; Leonard Gross | Go to book overview

14
THE MEDIA CAMPAIGN: POLLING AND ADVERTISING IN THE CONFIRMATION PROCESS

Public opinion polls and media advertising played an unprecedented role in the battle to defeat the Bork nomination. Polling results signaled that Bork was beatable and thereby encouraged potential opponents to exert greater efforts to defeat the nomination. Bork's opponents were also able to use polls to learn which issues would be most effective in their advertising campaign. Finally, polls were used at the end of the process to convince senators that it was politically wise to vote against Bork's confirmation.

Early polls showed that despite widespread publicity, most people had never heard of Robert Bork. Among those who had heard of him, public opinion was closely divided. In a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in August, 45 percent of this group approved the nomination and 40 percent disapproved.1 However, a majority of all of those interviewed in the poll said that they had not read or heard anything about Judge Bork.2

The early polls also suggested that it would be politically feasible for the Senate to expand on its traditional role in Supreme Court confirmations. In the Washington Post-ABC News poll of August 3-5, 46 percent said the Senate should consider only Bork's background and qualifications in deciding whether to confirm him, but 51 percent said the Senate should also consider Bork's legal views.3 And in the Martilla & Kiley poll conducted for AFSCME, a labor union representing state and municipal

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