Yasin Ozturk / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Americans have the constitutional right to abortion, reinforced by the US Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade was long taken for granted.
For most of the fall of 2021, Democrats, and especially Republicans, still thought Roe would most likely remain the state’s law for the foreseeable future — even as the Supreme Court refused to bar a Texas law from enacting 1 that lawmakers wanted to flout Roe by banning abortions as soon as he said heart activity had been detected, usually around six weeks into a pregnancy.
However, these views began to change in December
hearing before the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. More and more Americans began to doubt that Roe would survive after the court’s conservative judges raised the prospect of overturning nearly five decades of legal precedent on abortion rights during the hearing.
As the chart below shows, since those December verbal exchanges, Democrats have been consistently pessimistic about Roe’s ouster, but
following the leak of a first draft of a Supreme Court Opinion in May, showing that the majority of Conservative justices were poised to overthrow Roe, there was a sharp rise in stock saying it would be “definitely” or “very likely” to be overthrown. Even Republicans, who thought less likely than Democrats that Roe would ever be put down, now generally believe it will.
The reality that Roe could be knocked over has also led to how Americans prioritize abortion as an issue. for decades,
those who opposed abortion rights (generally speaking, Republicans) rated the issue as more important than those who supported abortion rights (generally speaking, Democrats), but as the chart below shows, after the abortion ban in Texas went into effect, the priorities of the two parties switched, which I did first wrote about October.
Indeed, the rift between Democrats and Republicans over the importance of abortion as an issue has only widened, particularly after the Supreme Court’s draft advisory opinion was leaked in May. In the two YouGov/The Economist polls since then, a record proportion of voters who supported President Biden in 2020 ranked abortion as a “very important” issue
61 percent and 63 percent, up from an average of about 42 percent in August surveys. Compare that to 37 percent and 40 percent of 2020 Trump voters, respectively, who ranked abortion as a “very important” issue in May, compared to an average of about 45 percent in August polls.
Not only are Democrats more concerned now, but they also rank abortion as a much more important issue for their midterm vote for Congress than they were four years ago
Monmouth University polls. Republicans were more likely than Democrats in the 2018 midterms prioritize abortion as their most important issue when choosing who to vote for in Congress, but in May 32 percent of Democrats said abortion was the most important issue in determining their vote, compared with 17 percent of Republicans. The proportion of Democrats who said abortion was an “extremely important” issue in the 2022 congressional election (48 percent) is also up from 2018 (31 percent), while the proportion of Republicans who said the issue is “extremely important” in 2022 (29 percent) has decreased compared to 2018 (36 percent).
Polling data from both YouGov/The Economist and Monmouth aligns with a long body of political science research showing how to do this
threats and Fury often motivate political action. When most Democrats took abortion rights for granted, other issues usually overshadowed them. But now, with the status quo on the verge of being turned on its head, Democrats are making abortion rights an increasing priority, and likely will channel their anger at Roe being put down in various forms of political participation. Meanwhile, with Republicans likely to win their long battle to topple Roe, the issue is unlikely to hold the same importance in GOP politics.
However, it remains to be seen how these shifts in voter priorities will impact future elections. So far, the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion has had no discernible impact on which party voters would support in a congressional election in FiveThirtyEight’s generic poll average. But as FiveThirtyEight editor and boss Nate Silver
tweeted On Thursday, election effects are likely to manifest themselves in more nuanced ways — especially after the political implications of the final verdict become even clearer during the summer and fall campaigns. Nate Cohn, the New York Times’ chief political analyst, agreed: Add that “the effect [of overturning Roe] on individual races may prove more important than their effect on the national political environment if abortion is particularly prominent in some locales due to extreme candidates or state political interests.”
Regardless, the reality that abortion rights can no longer be taken for granted has already severely shifted the priorities of many voters. Those shifts are also likely to get bigger when Roe is finally ousted this summer — in fact, they could become even more politically powerful in the future.