Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the second day of his Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill September 5, 2018 in Washington, DC.
PHOTO: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the second day of his Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill September 5, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Now playing
02:25
Kavanaugh: Roe v. Wade is 'entitled to respect' (2018)
UNITED STATES - MAY 09:  Brett Kavanaugh is sowrn-in at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination to be U. S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit.  (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/Roll Call/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Chris Maddaloni/CQ-Roll Call Group/CQ-Roll Call,Inc.
UNITED STATES - MAY 09: Brett Kavanaugh is sowrn-in at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination to be U. S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit. (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/Roll Call/Getty Images)
Now playing
06:17
Here's what we know about Brett Kavanaugh
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 15:  Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh walks to a meeting with Se. Joe Donnelly (R-IN) on August 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. Kavanaugh is meeting with members of the Senate after U.S. President Donald Trump nominated him to succeed retiring Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 15: Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh walks to a meeting with Se. Joe Donnelly (R-IN) on August 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. Kavanaugh is meeting with members of the Senate after U.S. President Donald Trump nominated him to succeed retiring Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:29
Trump admin withholds Kavanaugh docs
PHOTO: Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States
Now playing
01:00
See the times Trump has praised Gorsuch
PHOTO: Getty/AP
Now playing
01:38
Kavanaugh reveals views on Mueller probe
PHOTO: Getty Images
Now playing
01:21
Neil Gorsuch confirmed to supreme court
leahy gorsuch hearing
PHOTO: CNN
leahy gorsuch hearing
Now playing
02:21
Sen. Leahy: Republicans blockaded Garland
Justices of the US Supreme Court sit for their official group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 1, 2017. 
Seated (L-R): Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony M. Kennedy, Chief Justice of the US John G. Roberts, Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer. Standing (L-R): Associate Justices Elena Kagan, Samuel Alito Jr., Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Justices of the US Supreme Court sit for their official group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 1, 2017. Seated (L-R): Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony M. Kennedy, Chief Justice of the US John G. Roberts, Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer. Standing (L-R): Associate Justices Elena Kagan, Samuel Alito Jr., Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:16
How are Supreme Court justices chosen?
neil gorsuch sworn in orig alee mobile_00000000.jpg
neil gorsuch sworn in orig alee mobile_00000000.jpg
Now playing
00:52
Trump: Gorsuch appointment is a great honor
Neil Gorsuch, U.S. Supreme Court nominee for U.S. President Donald Trump, is sworn in during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, March 20, 2017. Gorsuch goes before a Senate committee as a heavy favorite, given Republican control, to win confirmation to a lifetime seat on the nations highest court. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PHOTO: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Neil Gorsuch, U.S. Supreme Court nominee for U.S. President Donald Trump, is sworn in during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, March 20, 2017. Gorsuch goes before a Senate committee as a heavy favorite, given Republican control, to win confirmation to a lifetime seat on the nations highest court. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Now playing
02:49
How the Supreme Court is like high school
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26:  U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) attends a lunch meeting for Republican lawmakers in the Cabinet Room at the White House June 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The president called the Supreme Court
PHOTO: Pool/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) attends a lunch meeting for Republican lawmakers in the Cabinet Room at the White House June 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The president called the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in favor of the administration's travel ban a "tremendous victory," according to published reports. (Photo by Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:23
Collins discussed Roe v. Wade with Kavanaugh
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:37
Red-state Dems under pressure for SCOTUS vote
title: File uploaded by user duration: 00:00:00 site:  author:  published:  intervention: no description:
PHOTO: CSPAN
title: File uploaded by user duration: 00:00:00 site: author: published: intervention: no description:
Now playing
01:28
Video raises questions about Kavanaugh's views
Brett Kavanaugh 2016
PHOTO: C-SPAN
Brett Kavanaugh 2016
Now playing
02:39
Hear Kavanaugh discuss independent counsel
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:29
Meet Trump's pick for Supreme Court
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:21
Hear Kavanaugh's first remarks after nomination
POTUS meets with President of Portugal/TAPE
PHOTO: POOL
POTUS meets with President of Portugal/TAPE
Now playing
01:16
Trump reacts to Justice Kennedy retirement
(CNN) —  

Judge Brett Kavanaugh is one of the least popular Supreme Court nominees of all time. But as long as his popularity ratings don’t drop dramatically, he’s likely to get confirmed.

Recent polling shows that Americans are split on whether Kavanaugh should be confirmed. The most recent Gallup poll found 40% believe he should be and 36% are opposed. The split was even closer in an ABC News/Washington Post poll at 38% for confirmation and 39% against it.

Usually, Supreme Court nominees are well liked even after intense confirmation hearings. Just after Kavanaugh was announced, I collected the final popularity ratings for all Supreme Court nominees since Robert Bork before their confirmation vote or withdrawal. (No poll was taken about Anthony Kennedy.)

The average net approval or favorability rating for these nominees was 20 percentage points.

Kavanaugh’s net favorabilty rating is just above zero right now. No nominee who was as unpopular as Kavanaugh is currently has been confirmed in the modern era. Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination after being chosen by President George W. Bush, while Bork was voted down after being nominated by President Ronald Reagan.

Kavanaugh’s low popularity certainly limits his potential to grab Democratic votes. Once we control for factors such as a nominee’s qualifications and her or his ideological distance from each senator, a nominee’s popularity has impacted how many votes they receive for confirmation. One of President George H.W. Bush’s picks, Clarence Thomas, for example, probably wouldn’t have been confirmed without his strong popularity ratings.

The problem for those hoping that Kavanaugh goes down is that popularity isn’t the only thing that matters. Miers withdrew mostly because conservatives complained about her qualifications. Bork was voted down by a Democrat-controlled Senate because his conservative record was so extensive.

Kavanaugh has neither of those problems. He has been rated as “well-qualified” by the American Bar Association. Kavanaugh also will be voted upon by a Senate that is controlled by Republicans.

When you combine the makeup of the Senate and Kavanaugh’s judicial profile, his current popularity rating is probably not low enough to make any Republicans vote against him. He may even pick up a Democratic vote.

Now, the potentially good news for Democrats is that nominees do tend to see their popularity drop after a confirmation hearing.

Bork, for example, initially had a one-point net favorability rating in a Times Mirror poll. That’s more than 10 points higher than where his popularity rating ended up in a Los Angeles Times poll before the Senate voted him down.

When I previously wrote on Kavanaugh, I noted that a Bork-like popularity might be low enough for Kavanaugh to get voted down. Specifically, it would on average lead to him getting 49 votes in favor compared to 50 votes against.

That, however, was back when Sen. John McCain was not healthy enough to be in Washington to vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation. In other words, back when Republicans really had only 50 senators to the Democrats’$2 49.

This week, Republican Jon Kyl was sworn in to fill McCain’s seat. Kyl has a conservative voting record and was Kavanaugh’s sherpa (i.e. the experienced Washington insider to guide him through the confirmation process). There is pretty much no chance that Kyl would vote against Kavanaugh. That brings Kavanaugh to 50 votes on average in a hypothetical scenario in which his popularity matches the worst polling nominee on record by the end of the confirmation process.

I guess it’s possible that Kavanaugh could become even more unpopular than Bork was. In this highly partisan environment in which potential justices are far less likely to reveal their stances on matters of judicial importance than they were back when Bork was under consideration, it seems unlikely, however, that Kavanaugh’s public numbers would move that much.

It’s also possible that Kyl’s connection to Kavanaugh might make him abstain from voting on him. Again though, that seems more like a Democratic fantasy than a potential reality.

The bottom line is that with 51 Republican senators, he’s very likely to land on the Supreme Court.