Poll: Abortion Issue Won’t Save Dems from Midterm Rout
After conservatives have made political hay out of judicial activism for decades, many on the Left believe that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade makes it finally their turn. “This fall, Roe is on the ballot,” declared Joe Biden. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) concurred. “It is essential that we protect and expand our pro-choice majorities in the House and Senate in November,” she told colleagues on Monday.
The promises to fight for abortion have received nothing but applause and encouragement in the mainstream media. “Democrats seize on abortion ruling in midterms as Republicans tread carefully,” ran The Washington Post headline. “By overturning Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court makes abortion a top election issue,” said Time magazine. ABC News piled on, “Abortion rights front and center in the midterms after the Supreme Court decision.” And Voice of America exclaimed, “Abortion Rights Could Drive Democratic Voters to Polls in November.”
For months, Democrats have struggled with feelings of impending doom — and not from long COVID. No, Democrats are staring straight at a red tsunami, scheduled to break over their heads on Election Day 2022. The president’s party historically struggles in midterm elections, and the president’s habit of stumbling from crisis to crisis doesn’t help their cause. Between foreign foibles and domestic disasters, Democrats have few positive developments they can point to, despite controlling the House, the Senate, and the White House. They were ready to latch on to anything that might re-float their party’s boat — when the Supreme Court’s decided to send abortion policy back to the states.
“Hooray, we’re saved!” cried the party who spent two years stoking inflation and demonizing parents. Self-deception is the most pitiful kind.
As it turns out, most voters don’t care about abortion that much. According to a Cygnal survey commissioned by the Republican State Leadership Committee, conducted in battleground states immediately after the Dobbs decision was released, when asked to select the “most important” issue out of a list of 10, only 8% of likely voters chose abortion, while 37% chose “high cost of living/inflation,” and 16% chose “economy in general.”
But those polled were also inconsistent. When asked to name “the absolute most important issue,” 30% of likely voters named a candidate’s position on abortion. In a vacuum, on the day after Roe v. Wade was overruled, it must have seemed more important — but still a minority. On the same question, only 20% of independent likely voters named abortion, and those are the ones candidates in battleground states should be most concerned about persuading.
Speaking of polls, Colorado, Illinois, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah held primary elections or runoffs on Tuesday, the first round after Roe was overturned. The New York Times could only report, “The Supreme Court decision ending the constitutional right to abortion was expected to motivate voters. Turnout in several states hosting primaries on Tuesday, however, appeared to be typically sluggish — at least so far.” (By “was expected,” they mean that they expected it. By “at least so far,” they mean they hope so. Can mainstream outlets not write a whole sentence of straight news without breaking into opinion?)
Outrage and anger are intense, immediate emotions, not delayed ones. If abortion makes any impact on elections, it should be visible already.
Abortion could be an electoral dud because of lack of enthusiasm among moderates. That is, abortion primarily motivates voters who are already committed and engaged on the issue, and who have already made up their minds (both for abortion and for unborn babies).
Another possible explanation for abortion’s seeming failure to make an impact is that the most radical pro-abortion activists seem to have lost confidence in their political leaders. For example, Jane’s Revenge, the group terrorizing pregnancy centers, criticized “self-proclaimed ‘feminist organizations’” for “demure little rallies” and “hollow gestures” that “would fail to capture attention.” “We were told to let them handle it, and to defer to the political machinery that has thus far failed to secure our liberation,” said their manifesto. “We cannot sit idly by anymore while our anger is yet again channeled into Democratic party fundraisers and peace parades with the police.” Pro-abortion fury is skipping straight past the political process to violence.
Even Democrats who remain committed to fighting over abortion in the political process are disappointed in their leaders. “There needs to be more fight” from President Biden, said Democratic National Committee member David Atkins.
That frustration may explain why President Biden’s approval rating has tumbled to yet another record low. According to the Real Clear Politics average, his approval rate on Wednesday sat at 38.0%, nearly 20 percentage points underwater. On June 23, the day before Dobbs was released, his approval average was 39.6%, nearly the same it was on February 9. Yet since Dobbs, Biden’s approval rating has fallen nearly two percentage points in six days.
The Left wants a fight on abortion, no matter how crazy their schemes to do so may be. Yet Biden isn’t willing to fight. Either he isn’t willing to take up the progressive cause to promote abortion at all costs (not likely, given his record as president), or he knows it isn’t a winning issue. For once, his party should listen to him.
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.