Roe v. Wade could have unexpected impact on midterm elections

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Roe v. Wade could have unexpected impact on midterm elections

The Supreme Court draft arguing for the reversal of Roe v. Wade, which would end the federal right to abortion, will be a hot-button issue at the midterm elections. Within hours of the draft’s leak, Democrats declared that abortion rights will power their message at elections up and down the country, hoping to compel their base to support pro-choice candidates.

“There are few things as monumental as a federal ban on the right to control your own body that will get women to the polls,” Sonia Ossorio, President of NOW New York, told The Post. “This will be a huge galvanizing moment.” 

But while fiery pro-choice protests erupted across the nation this week, it’s unclear whether that passion will last all the way to the midterms in November — particularly in key races in battleground states like Georgia and Texas. “My sense is that voters don’t want an extended debate on abortion for the next six months,” said Jessica Anderson, executive director of conservative lobby group Heritage Action.

The US Supreme Court justices, five of whom argued to overturn Roe v Wade and end federally legalized abortion. The leaking of their draft ruling is unprecedented in American history.
The US Supreme Court justices, five of whom argued to overturn Roe v Wade and end federally legalized abortion. The leaking of their draft ruling is unprecedented in American history.
The Washington Post via Getty Images

Top Republican pollster Wes Anderson agreed: “Inflation, immigration and crime, this is what the vast majority of Democratic, Republican and independent voters are focused on.” And though most analysts agree that the Democratic base will stay energized, moderate and independent voters — who often hold conflicting views on abortion – remain major wild-cards. 

Here are the key constituencies likely to turn out at the polls over abortion, according to the experts, and some of their findings may surprise you…

Younger Voters

According to The Pew Research Center, 59% of all Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, but that number jumps to 67% among the 18-29 age group — the highest of any age cohort. And young voters, many of them becoming legal voters for the first time this year, are likely to support Democratic, pro-choice candidates, experts said.

Protesters at the University of California, Berkeley, react to the Supreme Court draft leak. With their strong support of abortion rights, students and young people are likely to view the issue as an election-decider.
Protesters at the University of California, Berkeley, react to the Supreme Court draft leak. With their strong support of abortion rights, students and young people are likely to view the issue as an election-decider.
Getty Images

Still, cracks are beginning to show among young Americans, said pollster Anderson, partly because of technology. Digital imagery during pregnancy, including both sonograms and more newly-popular 3D-sonograms — which allow patients to see a “photo” of the fetus — are impacting how younger people view pregnancy, he said. “Medical science has changed the lexicon around ‘viability.’ With tools like 3D sonograms, the debate is no longer around a ‘clump of cells’. More Americans now know that this is a baby” – including younger Americans typically at the forefront of embracing new technologies, he said.

While some 67% of Americans aged 18-29 are pro-choice, not all will be outraged if Roe v. Wade is overturned, particularly the young people who’ve grown up in states with abortion restrictions.
While some 67% of Americans aged 18-29 are pro-choice, not all will be outraged if Roe v. Wade is overturned, particularly the young people who’ve grown up in states with abortion restrictions.
ZUMA24.com

Meanwhile, because abortion restrictions already exist in many states like Texas – where abortion is only legal through the sixth week of pregnancy – many younger voters have already grown up in a “post-Roe world,” said NOW’s Ossorio. Some experts predict the specter of losing federal abortion rights is unlikely to lure many young voters to the polls in states when their rights have already been restricted.

Women

Non-Christian women are most likely to flood the polls over the threat of Roe v. Wade being overturned, experts said. “This is going to impact and galvanize every demographic for women,” says NOW’s Ossorio. “It will focus young women on the realization that our rights have not been secured, while older women and retirees will be the first in line at the polls because they have the historic perspective of knowing what it means when women cannot control their bodies.”

Non-Christian women are most likely to flood the polls over the threat of Roe v. Wade being overturned, experts said.
Non-Christian women are most likely to flood the polls over the threat of Roe v. Wade being overturned, experts said.
Mario Cantu/Cal Sport Media/Sipa

But conservative, religious women could be equally galvanized, helping boost support for GOP candidates. “This could be a real driver in the suburbs,” thwarting “a Democratic strategy that is really quite flawed,” said Anderson of Heritage Action. Republican pollster Anderson agrees, adding that women living in heavily rural and Evangelical communities could also be energized to vote even more Republican. And while women support abortion at greater numbers than men – 62% vs. 56%, according to Pew Research data — “women who’ve called themselves ‘pro-choice’ early in their lives are often far less likely to support abortion as they grow older,” he said. “It’s not that they’re suddenly becoming hard-core pro-lifers,” he added. “They simply become more indifferent.”

While women support abortion at greater numbers than men – 62% vs. 56% — “women who’ve called themselves ‘pro-choice’ early in their lives are often far less likely to support abortion as they grow older,” pollster Wes Anderson said.
While women support abortion at greater numbers than men – 62% vs. 56% — “women who’ve called themselves ‘pro-choice’ early in their lives are often far less likely to support abortion as they grow older,” pollster Wes Anderson said.
Getty Images

Women’s advocacy groups such as Emily’s List, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America had earmarked $150 million for the November midterms even before the Supreme Court leak. The money is being targeted across offices up and down the ballot in nine key states: Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, California, Kansas and Wisconsin. Progressive pollsters believe pro-choice candidates will have an edge with women come November. “Even though the attacks on abortion are nothing new, stripping people of a constitutional right will incite anger and electoral momentum,” said Political Director Marcela Mulholland at Data for Progress. “This will certainly have an impact in blue, red and purple states.”

African Americans

Black women comprise 13% of the US population, but accounted for nearly 40% of all abortions nationwide in 2019. Perhaps as a result, African-Americans are strongly in favor of abortion rights – with 54% favoring legalized abortion compared to 38% against, according to Gallup Director of US Social Research Lydia Saad.

And pro-choice African-American advocacy groups were among the first to decry the Supreme Court’s draft decision.

The Georgia Senate race pitting pro-choice Democrat Raphael Warnock (left) against pro-life Republican Herschel Walker could be decided by black voters, who typically support access to abortion.
The Georgia Senate race pitting pro-choice Democrat Raphael Warnock (left) against pro-life Republican Herschel Walker could be decided by black voters, who typically support access to abortion.

“As black women, our fight has always been — and continues to be — about the human right to control our body, our work and our community,” said Marcela Howell, president and CEO of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda in a statement. “The high court’s ruling will declare open season on women’s rights and lives.”

But how these beliefs will translate at the ballot box is not entirely clear. “Black women are one segment that could become energized by this debate” and improve Democratic outcomes, pollster Anderson said, but there simply aren’t enough black female voters to dramatically shift any election outcomes. What’s more, support for abortion tends to ebb among less urban, educated and affluent black women. “Most importantly,” Anderson added, “we don’t see much evidence that abortion is a key issue for African-American men. They appear to have the least to say about it.”

When voters take to the ballot booth in the upcoming midterms, all eyes will be on moderates and Independents, who will have the most impact on election results in battleground states.
When voters take to the ballot booth in the upcoming midterms, all eyes will be on moderates and Independents, who will have the most impact on election results in battleground states.
Stefan Jeremiah

The crucial senate race in Georgia features a pair of African-American candidates – incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock, 52, versus Republican upstart and former NFL star Herschel Walker, 60. Warnock, an ordained minister, supports abortion rights, describing himself earlier this week as a “pro-choice pastor,” a move that was swiftly slammed by Christian and conservative groups. Walker, meanwhile, is vocally anti-abortion and has secured endorsements from leading pro-life organizations.

Although black female voters held outsized sway in the 2020 presidential election, helping put Joe Biden in the White House, their influence in this senate race is uncertain, particularly with two black men running for office. “Some 30% of blacks in Georgia are from rural counties and they’re far less supportive of abortion than blacks in Atlanta,” pollster Anderson said. “Abortion could boost Democrats in urban areas, but could also have the opposite effect the further you get from city centers.”

Hispanics

Hispanic voters are the least pro-choice of any major US demographic, with 56% calling themselves pro-life and 40% pro-choice, according to Gallup. “If I was on the Democratic side looking in, I would certainly be concerned about Hispanics not being activated” by the Supreme Court draft decision, Gallup’s Saad said. “This is an issue that simply does not push their buttons the way it pushes the buttons of other (traditional Democrats).” As pollster Anderson sees it, “I doubt abortion will be a significant issue for Hispanics.”

Newcomer Jessica Cisneros is challenging longtime incumbent Henry Cuellar for Texas' 28th Congressional district. Both are Democrats; Cisneros is pro-choice, Cuellar pro-life, a rarity for the party.
Newcomer Jessica Cisneros is challenging longtime incumbent Henry Cuellar for Texas’ 28th Congressional district. Both are Democrats; Cisneros is pro-choice, Cuellar pro-life, a rarity for the party.

In fact, the potential reversal of Roe v. Wade could energize Hispanics to vote more heavily for Republican candidates. Already Latino voters — many of whom are Catholic — are trending conservative. One of the biggest surprises of the 2020 presidential election was the loss of Hispanic support for Democrats in key battleground states such as Florida and Texas. Although Biden won the overall Latino vote in both states, Trump saw an 11-point gain among Hispanics in Florida, while Texas’ once mightily Democratic Rio Grande Valley region saw major Republican surges. Two counties in particular illustrate this trend: In the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden won Hidalgo County, home to the heavily Hispanic city of McAllen, by 17% compared to a 40% win by Hillary Clinton in 2016. In Zapata County, meanwhile, Trump won outright by 5% — a stunning reversal in a district Clinton took by 33% in 2016 and Obama by 43% in 2012.

This shift will be put to the test on May 24 in Texas’ heavily Hispanic 28th District, where a run-off election pits two Latino Democrats — pro-choice human-rights lawyer Jessica Cisneros, 28, and pro-life incumbent Henry Cuellar, 66 — against each other.

A voting station in McAllen, Texas, on election day in November 2020. The city is part of Hidalgo County, which has seen Democratic support tumble over the past decade.
A voting station in McAllen, Texas, on election day in November 2020. The city is part of Hidalgo County, which has seen Democratic support tumble over the past decade.
REUTERS

In the wake of the Roe v. Wade leak, Cisneros has amped up her attacks on Cuellar for his anti-abortion beliefs. Despite being the only House Democrat to vote against the Women’s Health Protection Act last year, he still retains the support of Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi.

“As the Supreme Court prepares to overturn Roe v. Wade, I am calling on Democratic Party leadership to withdraw their support of Henry Cuellar who is the last anti-choice Democrat in the House,” Cisneros said in a statement Wednesday, adding: “with the House majority on the line, he could very much be the deciding vote on the future of our reproductive rights and we cannot afford to take that risk.”

But with voters in this heavily Latino district more religious and conservative than the overall Democratic base, Cuellar’s anti-abortion status could actually work in his favor. Whatever happens, this race “will test the party’s willingness to keep an anti-abortion congressman in office,” Mulholland said.

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