Furor over Roe v. Wade reversal likely won't rescue Democrats in midterm elections: Poll
- Even those who oppose overturning Roe v. Wade say the economy is a bigger issue for their vote.
- Republicans face risks, with an anti-abortion stance at odds with most voters.
- Most Americans know a family member or friend who has had an abortion.
Democratic strategists who hope the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade will transform the midterms' political landscape in their favor may be in for a disappointment.
In a USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll taken prior to the decision, even those Americans who opposed striking down the landmark decision recognizing abortion rights say by 2-1 – 59% to 29% – that the economy will be more important to their vote in November. Seven in 10 say the high court's action willl have no effect on whether they choose to cast a ballot.
"Gas prices going up too high; the inflation rate is ridiculous," said Ben Hoffman, 35, of Karthaus, Pennsylvania, ticking off his top concerns. While the political independent supports abortion rights, "I think the state of the economy right now is going to become a life-and-death issue here in the fall, if things continue in the high-price direction that they're heading."
For most voters, that familiar maxim – "It's the economy, stupid" – still applies.
The high court's decision, signaled in a draft majority opinion leaked to Politico in May, overwhelms other issues for some.
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"When you take away a woman's choice on reproduction or refuse to implement reasonable gun control, people's lives are literally at stake," said Lynda Tarantino, 54, an attorney from Buffalo, New York, who also participated in the survey. A Democrat, she said she cares about those values "much more than a few hundred dollars that I would have to spend because inflation is high."
But the overall findings raise questions about whether the Supreme Court decision will rescue Democrats' flagging prospects by energizing core supporters and drawing swing voters to their side.
Only 16% of those who opposed overturning Roe v. Wade say abortion is the most important issue determining their vote – precisely the same percentage as those who supported overturning it.
The poll of 1,000 registered voters, taken June 12-15 by landline and cellphone, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
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GOP at odds with voters on abortion
Republicans face risks, too, with an anti-abortion stance that puts them at odds with most voters.
- By more than 2-1, 61% to 28%, those surveyed oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that recognized abortion as a right during early months of a pregnancy. That majority includes 30% of Republicans and 64% of independents, the unaligned group that typically decides close elections.
- By more than 2-1, 63% to 30%, they think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, not illegal in all or most cases.
- By 51%-40%, they want one national policy on abortion, not a patchwork of state laws. Reversing Roe allows individual states to permit or to ban abortions.
"I've always been a states' rights guy," said Brian Schuster, 75, a retiree from Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. "If a state wants to (take action on abortion), based on where they are in the country – the Midwest is a lot more conservative, as well as the South; the East and the West Coast are very liberal – that's their right."
Schuster, an independent, describes himself as being against abortion, but he adds that he supports exceptions to an abortion ban if, for instance, the pregnancy is the result of rape or if it threatens the life of the mother. "There are limits," he said.
Abortion is now woven into the personal experiences of most Americans. By a wide margin, 58%-38%, those surveyed said they knew someone in their family or among their friends who has had an abortion.
Women were more likely than men to know someone who has had an abortion, 68% to 49%. Those who oppose overturning Roe v. Wade were more likely to know someone than those who support overturning the decision, 63% to 54%.
"I was in the Navy; I was 18; I was in a relationship with a boyfriend who was not a very good boyfriend," said Stacy Hannah of Gulfport, Florida, describing her own experiences with abortion.
Now 61, she is the stay-at-home caretaker for the man she later married. At the time, she had been on birth control and she wasn't ready to have a child. "I didn't have my first child until I was 31," she said. "That's how far out of the realm of being a mother I was at 18."
The women she knows who have had abortions "did it for economic, or health reasons, or a number of reasons, but none as a form of birth control," she said. "It's all been done with a serious thought."
Randall Huber, 33, of Isleton, California, a libertarian who supports abortion rights, once helped a friend go to an abortion clinic after she had been sexually assaulted. But he also notes that his mother had potentially life-threatening medical complications when she was pregnant with him. "It was a tough choice for her to make" to continue the pregnancy, he said.
A country off on the wrong track
Less than five months before the midterm elections, the survey charts a political landscape tilted against Democrats. Just 39% of Americans approve of the job Joe Biden is doing as president; 47% "strongly" disapprove. Seventy-one percent say the country is headed in the wrong direction, a level of concern that historically has signaled serious electoral setbacks for the party that controls the White House and Congress.
Asked whether they would support the Democratic congressional candidate or the Republican one if the election were today, they split 40%-40%.
Biden's approval:Biden approval rating at 39% amid economic fears; 47% 'strongly disapprove': USA TODAY/Suffolk poll
Abortion and midterm elections:Would Roe v. Wade's demise reshape the midterm elections? Ask that question in October.
Some top Democrats have predicted the Supreme Court decision would shake things up, particularly as some states move immediately to ban abortions.
"To the American people, I say this: The elections this November will have consequences, because the rights of a hundred million women are now on the ballot," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., recently told a Capitol Hill rally.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., who heads the House Democratic Campaign Committee, has called abortion "the central choice in the 2022 election."
A Supreme Court decision reversing a half-century of abortion rights is a seismic event, and all of the repercussions are impossible to predict with confidence.
Even so, in the survey, 39% of those who support Roe v. Wade say they would vote for a candidate they disagreed with on abortion if they agreed with him or her on other issues. That's a bit lower than the 45% who say they wouldn't.
Independents, by 64% to 23%, support abortion rights. But by a slightly wider margin, 67% to 20%, that key voter group cares more about the economy than abortion as a political issue. Three-fourths of them, 74%, say a court decision wouldn't affect whether they went to the polls in November; 21% say it would make them more likely to vote.
Among those who support Roe v. Wade, 26% say they will be more likely to vote now that the court overturned it.
"I'm not quite sure why we are headed back into a direction where we've already realized was a mistake back then," Sheri Erickson, 50, a restaurant manager from Beaverton, Oregon, said of efforts to overturn abortion rights. "That's like saying we're going back to slavery."
But Erickson, an independent, has something else on her mind when she considers how to vote.
"Look at gas prices," she said. "I work hard; my husband owns his own business, and we can barely afford where we are right now." Costs have risen for food and fuel, but her salary hasn't kept pace. Her top concern: "Our middle class continues to get closer to us not (having) our own living wages," she said.