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How The Fight Over Abortion Access Might Affect The 2022 Midterms

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Roughly two weeks ago, a highly restrictive abortion law went into effect in Texas, outlawing abortions once fetal cardiac activity can be detected — usually about six weeks into a pregnancy — which is before most women know they are pregnant.

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice filed an emergency injunction asking a judge to halt the law, and a hearing is set for early next month to consider temporarily blocking it, but, as of today, no one in Texas has brought a suit against an abortion provider in the state; clinics have said they plan to abide by the law.

But that hasn’t stopped abortion from once again being at the forefront of American politics. Beyond the Texas law, there is a law in Mississippi banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy that the Supreme Court is expected to take up later this year. This means abortion could reshape next year’s midterm elections. And although abortion has historically animated Republican voters more, it is proving to be a motivation for Democrats, too. During the summer of 2018, shortly after then-President Donald Trump nominated conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Democrats were increasingly likely to say abortion was an important factor in how they would vote that year. So it’s likely that this year and next, as Roe’s legal status is up in the air and more states move to pass restrictive abortion bills, the issue will be a top concern for many Democratic voters.


What Texas’ abortion ban could mean for the rest of the country | FiveThirtyEight

A recent Morning Consult poll of registered voters suggests that Democratic women are already prioritizing the issue more than they were prior to Texas’s law taking effect. Per their survey, 14 percent of Democratic women said issues like abortion, contraception and equal pay are their top voting concerns — up 6 percentage points from before the Texas law took effect. To be sure, though, abortion isn’t the top voting issue for Democratic women. The survey notes that the economy (25 percent) and health care (18 percent) each ranked as higher priorities.

Meanwhile, among Democrats overall, 10 percent said that abortion, contraception and equal pay were top of mind when voting — up from 5 points from before Texas’s law. Independents seemed to care about these issues, too. The share of independent women who listed these issues as top concerns jumped from 7 percent before the law went into effect, to 10 percent after. (Among all independents, the increase was smaller: 4 percent then to 6 percent now.) Republicans, however, didn’t really budge on the issue. Among Republican women, the percentage who said the issues of abortion, contraception and equal pay were top of mind increased from only 2 percent to 3 percent — the same numbers as for Republicans overall.

Majorities of voters have also said they don’t want the high court to overturn Roe. According to a September Data for Progress survey, which was fielded after the Texas law took effect, 60 percent of likely voters said the Supreme Court should keep Roe intact. This was up 3 points from a similar Data for Progress poll fielded in May. Meanwhile, a September survey from The Economist/YouGov found that 50 percent of U.S. adults did not want Roe overturned, versus 28 percent who did; this aligns with a separate YouGov poll from last year, which found that 49 percent of adults wanted Roe to remain, while only a quarter wanted it overturned. And earlier this month, The Economist/YouGov found that half of Americans (50 percent) disapproved of the Texas abortion law, while just 36 percent were in favor of it.

A pro-choice advocate holding up a sign that says “Bans off our bodies” in front of a flagpole with the Texas flag.

related: Why Texas’s Abortion Law May Go Too Far For Most Americans Read more. »

Of course, it’s still early, and even if abortion rights energizes Democrats now, it’s hard to know whether it will be top of mind for them heading into the 2022 midterms. It’s also possible that this issue will also energize anti-abortion Republican voters, as Kavanaugh’s nomination seems to have done in 2018. Back then, GOP voters saw Trump — and the appointment of Kavanaugh — as a way to have a solidly anti-abortion Supreme Court majority, and Republicans began attacking certain Democratic candidates who supported abortion rights or had received funding from Planned Parenthood. Some Republican senators running in red states also used Kavanaugh and his fight for Senate confirmation to energize voters in states Trump had won in 2016. This was less true in House races — after all, 2018 was a “blue wave” for Democrats — but in the Senate, it meant some staunch, anti-abortion conservatives like Sens. Josh Hawley in Missouri and Mike Braun in Indiana were able to defeat incumbent Democrat senators who had voted against Kavanaugh’s nomination.

It’s possible, then, that abortion will once again energize conservative voters, turning their focus to opportunities to ban abortion elsewhere — not just in the nation’s most conservative states. Which is why we’ll be watching whether other red states move to mirror Texas’s laws — as some have already promised to do — and how that might animate GOP voters, as well as the extent to which Democratic voters continue to prioritize abortion rights while Roe’s legal status remains in limbo.

Other polling bites

  • Earlier this month, President Biden announced vaccine and testing requirements for both federal employees and private businesses with more than 100 employees. As my colleague Maggie Koerth reported last week, vaccine mandates do work — and recent polling suggests that Americans are largely on board with the federal government issuing the mandates. Per the latest Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index, 60 percent of Americans supported Biden’s vaccine mandates. Similarly, 57 percent of Americans supported their own employer requiring vaccines in the workplace. Of course, though, there was a partisan divide. Republicans, who are generally more wary about getting the jab, were less likely to support Biden’s policies, according to the poll. Only around one-third of Republicans said they backed Biden’s new requirement on federal employees and his mandate on private businesses. Among Democrats, however, 84 percent supported both mandates.
  • Most Americans feel that democracy in the U.S. is under attack or at least being tested, according to a CNN/SSRS poll. In total, 93 percent of Americans said democracy was either under attack (56 percent) or being tested but not necessarily under attack (37 percent). Republicans were the most likely to say that democracy is under attack (75 percent), compared with just 46 percent of Democrats. This might have something to do with how both self-described conservatives (71 percent) and Americans who disapproved of President Biden (71 percent) were the most likely to believe democracy was under attack .
  • On Tuesday, the Pew Research Center published a far-reaching study into the concerns around climate change among residents in some of the world’s most economically developed countries. Among U.S. adults, 60 percent said they were worried about the personal impacts of climate change, whereas, across the 17 nations surveyed, a median of 72 percent of adults shared this sentiment. Notably, an overwhelming majority of people (a median of 80 percent) in these 17 nations — which included places like South Korea, Italy, Japan and Australia — said they’d be willing to make at least some changes to their personal and work lives to help mitigate climate change. Seventy-four percent of Americans said they’d be open to making some changes, too.
  • Tailgates, face paint and packed stadiums are back as the 2021 NFL and NCAA football seasons have kicked off while the coronavirus pandemic continues. Week one of the NFL season has wrapped up, and four of the league’s 32 teams — the Buffalo Bills, Las Vegas Raiders, New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks — have a vaccination or testing policy in place for fans. And according to a Harris/Sportico poll, 66 percent of Americans were in favor of a vaccine mandate for fans. But despite 93 percent of NFL players being vaccinated, no team in the NFL has mandated its players to get vaccinated, although the same poll showed that 69 percent of Americans supported such a mandate for coaches and players.
  • Most Americans support letting at least some Afghans resettle in the U.S. Per an NPR/Ipsos poll, 74 percent of Americans supported admitting Afghans who had worked with the U.S. government, 73 percent supported admitting Afghans who had served in the Afghan special forces and 65 percent supported admitting Afghans who feared oppression from the Taliban. But as FiveThirtyEight contributor Michael Tesler wrote recently, past polling data shows that Americans have a history of opposing refugees, so it’s possible public opinion on this question could eventually fall, although it hasn’t yet.
  • Last year, to cope with the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, most Americans turned to alcohol. But now many are at least trying to curb their drinking, according to a recent Cutback Coach/Ipsos poll (Cutback Coach, who sponsored the poll, aims to help people who drink implement healthier habits). Per their survey, 50 percent of Americans said they’d made an effort to drink less or implement healthier drinking habits over the last three months, though just 20 percent said they drank less in that timeframe. On the other hand, 55 percent said their personal drinking habits stayed the same over the last three months, while 26 percent said they were drinking more now than three months ago.

Biden approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker,1 45.9 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 48.6 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -2.6 points). At this time last week, 45 percent approved and 47.8 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -2.8 points). One month ago, Biden had an approval rating of 49.8 percent and a disapproval rating of 44 percent (a net approval rating of +5.7 points).

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot,2 Democrats currently lead Republicans by 2.6 percentage points (43.8 percent to 41.2 percent, respectively). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 2.5 points (43.7 percent to 41.1 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats over Republicans by 3.4 points (43.9 percent to 40.5 percent).

Additional research by Mackenzie Wilkes.


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Footnotes

  1. As of 5 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.

  2. As of 5 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.

Alex Samuels is a politics reporter at FiveThirtyEight.

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