(CNN)Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Republican appointee who provided key swing votes for same-sex marriage, abortion access and affirmative action, has announced his retirement from the Supreme Court. This decision will affect the court for a long time to come as President Donald Trump will have his second chance to nominate a justice in less than two years in office.
Americans think the Supreme Court nomination process is way too partisan
This time, Republicans who control the Senate may try to speed up the process, to get a nominee seated before midterm elections in November. It would be a switch from the last year of the Barack Obama presidency, when Republicans slowed down the process to block Obama's nominee.
No wonder Americans think the process is too political.
A large majority of respondents to a spring 2017 Quinnipiac poll, taken just after Trump's first nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed,said the process of confirming Supreme Court justices has become too partisan -- with 68% saying so, compared with 13% who said it's the "right amount" of partisanship.
All partisan groups showed a majority saying it has become too partisan -- 62% of Republicans and 71% of Democrats and independents. But Republicans were twice as likely to say it's the right amount of partisan -- 22% to Democrats' 11% and independents' 10%.
In February of that year, a majority (56%) said Republicans were wrong to block Obama's nominee. But a majority (65%) also said Democrats would be wrong to not allow a vote on Gorsuch.
Democrats did try to filibuster Gorsuch, a staunch conservative, by the way, so Republicans changed Senate rules to get him on the bench.
Who should Trump pick this time? His list of possible nominees is full of conservatives. According to a Gallup poll taken in September 2017, 43% of Americans said the current Supreme Court is just about right, while 30% said it was too conservative and 23% reported it was too liberal.
The Gallup poll on the Supreme Court is taken once a year and the numbers from September 2016 have almost completely flipped on partisanship. Before the 2016 presidential election and when Obama was still in office, 37% said the court was too liberal and 20% said it was too conservative.
In the past, how conservative or liberal the public wanted a new justice to be didn't really depend on the party of the nominating president. In June 2005, 41%, a plurality, wanted President George W. Bush to nominate a more conservative justice. But that number went down in the next Gallup poll in September. During Obama's presidency, more people reported each year they wanted a more conservative justice than liberal or keeping the court as it was.
A CBS poll asked in February 2017, before Gorsuch was nominated, if respondents wanted the next Supreme Court justice to be someone who is a liberal, a moderate or a conservative. This question is more likely to indicate what people expect and want from Trump, as it was taken during his presidency. Only 2-in-10 said they wanted a liberal justice, 36% a moderate and a third reported they wanted someone who is conservative.