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Democrats Are Trying to Get Their Voters Riled Up About Roe v. Wade. It’s Not Working.

Democrats hoped outrage prompted by the overturning of Roe v. Wade would help turn out supporters, but the actual impact on the electorate looks to be minimal.


You know Democrats are in trouble when even this won’t save them.


Polls, recent primary results and long-term trends suggest voters haven’t been as catalyzed by the renewed furor over abortion as Democrats might have wished.

1. THE POLLS: A new survey on likely swing state voters’ most pressing issues, which was conducted by Cygnal in the days shortly after Roe was overturned, showed abortion lagging well behind other concerns.

A separate poll released last Friday by USA Today/Suffolk found 66% of voters name the economy as the most important election issue ahead of the November midterms, compared to 15% who chose abortion.

  • Three out of four respondents said the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion would have no impact on their vote.
  • Even those opposed to striking down Roe said by a 2-to-1 margin, 59% to 29%, that the economy was more important.
  • Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., who is battling for reelection in a heavily pro-choice state, said the decision was important but there “are other issues like gas prices and prescription drug prices” on voters’ minds, as well.

2. THE PRIMARIES: In May, following the bombshell leaking of a draft opinion indicating the Supreme Court intended to overturn Roe, Republican turnout in the first round of ten state primaries spiked 32%, while Democratic turnout decreased by 3%, according to data compiled by political consultant John Couvillon.

Turnout during Democratic primaries in June was also lower in California, Ohio and Virginia.

  • Analyses in the mainstream press interpreted the results as a warning sign for Democrats or indicators of a coming “spike in GOP turnout.”
  • “Republican voters about 10 points more enthusiastic than Democrats to vote in the midterms both before and after the leak of the draft opinion,” wrote CNN analyst Harry Enten, citing multiple polls which showed the leaked decision had had little impact on voters.
  • Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Georgia experienced increased turnout among Democrats in high-profile races – but all three states saw even bigger bumps in GOP turnout.

3. THE TRENDS: There are fewer abortions in the present day than there were in previous decades –  a phenomenon that suggests less demand.

Infographic: Restrictive Laws Show Effect as U.S. Abortion Rate Declines | Statista

Former Trump Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur, in a May essay for Politico Magazine, said the trend showed “abortion has become less salient as a political issue” and might explain “why abortion has been steadily falling on the list of issues that voters mention as being the most important issue facing the country while other cultural issues — most notably, immigration — have ticked up.”

  • Meanwhile, the effects of redistricting and partisan sorting — which have led to most Democratic voters casting ballots for pro-choice candidates in solid blue districts — further blunt the impact of voter backlash over the Supreme Court’s decision.
  • Liberal commentator Natalie Shure lamented in an essay for the New Republic in May that, “As much as we might wish otherwise, the most plausible impact the end of Roe v. Wade will have on electoral politics is little to none at all.”
  • “In polls, the people who report caring most about abortion relative to other issues are young, progressive, educated, concentrated in cities, and of higher income — already one of the Democratic Party’s strongest bases,” Shure wrote.

“The moderate suburban voters some analysis predicted could be brought into the Democratic fold have largely already entered, in 2018 and 2020 — and even if they disapprove of overturning Roe, polls suggest they may not care quite enough to prioritize it over other issues.”