In any other year, the Supreme Court would be background noise to the campaign. This year, however, with Justice Scalia’s passing and a vacancy left on the court, Donald Trump pushed the issue of Supreme Court appointments as a centerpiece of his outreach to conservatives.


According to CNN’s 2016 exit polling, 21% of voters cited the Supreme Court as the “most important factor” driving their vote. Within that group of “SCOTUS Voters,” a solid 56% of them voted for Trump, just 40% for Clinton. See the charts from CNN:

Chart 1:
Supreme Court Trump Exit Polls

In general, Trump voters felt the court overall was more “important” than Clinton voters:

Chart 2:

The edge is just a 4 point gap between Clinton and Trump voters who say SCOTUS was “important,” but from the first chart, it appears that Trump voters were more driven to actually vote based on this issue versus Clinton supporters.

Part of this is a little shocking because many items on the progressive agenda have been avdanced through the courts. Specifically big items like abortion rights and same-sex marriage were eventually decided by the Supreme Court. Perhaps the recent battle over marriage left Democrats feeling pretty good about their cultural victories that the prospect of voting for Hillary simply to ensure a left-leaning court wasn’t enough to drive turnout or enthusiasm.

ABC News found similar numbers:

Nationally, 21 percent of voters call appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court “the most important factor” in their decision, preliminary exit polls indicate. (Though President Obama did put forth a nominee, the Supreme Court seat vacated when Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in Feburary, remains open.) These voters overwhelmingly favor Trump, 57 to 40 percent.

In some of the closer states like Michigan or Pennsylvania, this could have been a deciding issue that did indeed help propel Donald Trump to the presidency. He certainly hammered the issue more than Hillary did, though it’s not as if she was silent on the matter either.

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Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.

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