The Democrats reacted with predictable hysteria last Friday when the Supreme Court handed down its decision overturning Roe v. Wade. We have since been deafened by shrill denunciations of the “MAGA Court,” “extremist justices” and all things Republican. Adding to the din President Biden brayed, “This decision is the culmination of a deliberate effort over decades to upset the balance of our law.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared, “Make no mistake: reproductive freedom is on the ballot in November.” It is hardly a given, however, that this will save the Democrats in the fall.
Public opinion polls suggest that the Court and the voters are in agreement on abortion. According to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, for example, “More American voters favor the idea of a 15-week abortion ban than oppose it.” The Mississippi law that resulted in Roe’s long overdue demise includes just such a restriction. It thus provided the Court with an opportunity to reassess whether fraught questions involving abortion should be resolved by judges or the elected representatives of the people. The Court obviously chose the latter alternative, but the resultant sound and fury isn’t likely to do the Democrats much good in the midterms.
First, a number of major polls have found that the electorate’s view on abortion is far more nuanced than the Manichean political debate over Roe v. Wade suggests. A recent Gallup survey of historical trends indicates that, while most voters believe abortion should be legal during the first trimester of pregnancy, the survey also reveals that significant majorities believe it should be illegal after that point. Fully 71 percent say abortion should be illegal during the third trimester. This view of abortion has been prevalent for some time. An AP-NORC poll conducted almost exactly a year ago produced results consistent with those of the Gallup survey:
A majority of Americans believe most abortions should be legal in the first three months of a woman’s pregnancy, but most say the procedure should usually be illegal in the second and third trimesters, according to a new poll.… The new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds 61% of Americans say abortion should be legal in most or all circumstances in the first trimester of a pregnancy. However, 65% said abortion should usually be illegal in the second trimester, and 80% said that about the third trimester.
These polls suggest that the Democrats should be circumspect concerning how much time and money they devote to campaigning on abortion. This is not a good issue for them in a political environment already characterized by serious erosion of their Hispanic support. This voter bloc tends to be very conservative on abortion, and very few will be inclined to mourn Roe v. Wade. They are far more likely to react to the SCOTUS ruling as recently elected Rep. Mayra Flores (R-Texas) responded: “This was a big win for our country. If we want to see real change in bringing crime down we have to raise a generation to respect life in the womb.”
This message is far more likely to resonate with voters than wild claims about sinister GOP plots to deprive women of their rights. Yet the Democrats have reflexively reverted to their standard scare tactics. After SCOTUS released its ruling, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer issued the following statement: “Today is one of the darkest days our country has ever seen. Millions upon millions of American women are having their rights taken from them by five unelected Justices on the extremist MAGA court.” The prize for the most unhinged response, however, goes to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who issued this statement:
Today, the Republican-controlled Supreme Court has achieved the GOP’s dark and extreme goal of ripping away women’s right to make their own reproductive health decisions. Because of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Party and their supermajority on the Supreme Court, American women today have less freedom than their mothers. With Roe now out of their way, radical Republicans are charging ahead with their crusade to criminalize health freedom. In the Congress, Republicans are plotting a nationwide abortion ban.
This kind of nonsense isn’t going to move the needle. The voters have more pressing issues to worry about than Roe v. Wade. The most recent Politico-Morning Consult tracking poll asks respondents the following question: “Now, thinking about your vote, what would you say is the top set of issues on your mind when you cast your vote for federal offices such as U.S. Senate or Congress?” The answers were predictable: Economic Issues 43%; Security Issues 13%; Energy issues 10%; Women’s Issues 9%; Seniors issues 9%; Health Care Issues 8%; Education Issues 3%. Abortion is lumped in with various other “Women’s issues.”
It will be obvious to the meanest intelligence that the top concern of the respondents, all of whom were registered voters, involved economic issues. Even if we make the implausible assumption that abortion is the most important women’s concern, it still doesn’t qualify for a bronze medal in the issues Olympics. Even worse, when asked if the country is heading in the right direction, only 28 percent replied in the affirmative. No amount of hysterics about Roe v. Wade will save the Democrats. First, the Supreme Court and the public are on the same page concerning abortion. Second, until the economy is fixed, no one will be listening.
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