If abortion is about to transform American politics, it is barely registering so far in the initial public reaction to a draft US Supreme Court decision.
The early numbers do not speak of a seismic shift in opinion. A slight rumor, perhaps.
We now have several polls to judge the public’s reaction to last week’s explosive news about an unprecedented ruling by the country’s highest court.
That leaked draft suggests the court is ready to overturn a five-decade precedent that abortion access is a constitutional right and instead allow states to set their own policy.
Democrats have quickly tipped abortion as a possible winning message in this fall’s midterm congressional and state elections.
The issue is seen as a way to galvanize young voters, whose recent disenchantment puts the majority party at risk of severe elimination.
Making abortion the question at the polls would also allow Democrats to side with the majority of Americans who constantly tell pollsters they want Roe v. Wade remains intact.
That strategy was on display this week when Democrats held a hopeless vote in Congress to pass an abortion rights bill and then turned it into a midterm message.
Vice President Kamala Harris stood outside the Senate chamber and said abortion is now an issue for voters to decide; the argument is that keeping the Senate would allow Democrats to confirm more pro-choice judges and perhaps even pass legislation if they win more. seating.
Harris approached the cameras after her party fell short of a majority as West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin opposed the abortion measure.
“[This] makes it clear that a priority for everyone who cares about this issue, the priority must be electing pro-choice leaders,” the vice president said.
At the local, state and federal level.
What the headline numbers say
United States President Joe Biden tweeted a similar message — as do many other Democrats who argue that only midterm voters can prevent abortion rights from disappearing in some two dozen states if the Supreme Court’s draft decision stands when the ruling is finally handed down.
But those voters aren’t moving. At least not yet.
What several new polls say in a nutshell is that Biden remains unpopular; his party is still in danger; And those numbers haven’t changed at all.
“Early results suggest this is not going to be a panacea for Democrats,” said Cameron Easley, senior editor at polling firm Morning Consult.
“Based on the data we’re looking at right now, I think the answer to that question is no.”
Presidential job approval is considered an indicator of the mood of the electorate, and Biden’s score remains weak and stagnant.
His 42 percent approval rating is consistent with several big weekly polls from two weeks earlier: for morning consultation, Ipsos Y YouGov.
There has been a similar lack of movement in congressional preference: polling firms show no statistically significant change, and Democrats cling to a small lead in the popular vote that is likely not enough to retain control of Congress.
Now the fine print
But a closer reading of the fine print in those polls could give Democrats at least some miniature seedlings of hope.
There are signs of increased enthusiasm among Democratic voters. And that is a fundamental factor in the intermediate elections, since the electoral participation tends to be low, and small changes in participation can trigger seismic differences.
The latest Morning Consult poll, from May 6-9, found a surge in the so-called enthusiasm gap after months of Republicans expressing much greater enthusiasm for voting this year.
It showed that the percentage of Democrats who describe themselves as “extremely enthusiastic” about voting this year was up eight percentage points from two weeks ago.
17% of 18-24 year olds turned out to vote in 2014. Democrats were defeated.
32% of 18-24 year olds attended in 2018. Democrats won.
If young people attend, the Democrats win. pic.twitter.com/LBNDpKPsLP
Younger voters are key: they are particularly supportive of abortion access and their level of enthusiasm rose in the latest Morning Consult poll.
Last month, Republicans had a more overwhelming advantage, with their voters 12 percentage points more likely to call themselves extremely enthusiastic, up from seven points today.
And respondents in different polls were also more likely to describe abortion as an important issue for them in determining their vote this fall.
“Some hints that things might be changing”
“It could be a leading indicator of something,” said Kathy Frankovic, a representative for the firm YouGov.
“There are some signs that things might be changing. But we really have to wait.”
There are such indications in different surveys. The Monmouth University Polling Institute says that abortion has risen to the top level of trouble voters find it important, suddenly ranking next to the economy and ahead of other issues. The same pollster says opinion of the Supreme Court has collapsed.
There are other data points that tell a similar, albeit subtle, story.
YouGov sees abortion as still much less important than the economy, but it has risen up the priority list, particularly for Democrats, rising from the top priority of just two percent of Democratic voters to 10 percent.
“That is [a] pretty big change,” Frankovic said.
That’s why Easley offers three caveats to his broader conclusion that the current numbers don’t look promising for Democrats.
His first warning is that sudden burst of passion. That’s a change, with the faltering economy and his party struggling to pass landmark promises through Congress.
Of the impending fight over abortion, Easley said, “It’s revved up the Democratic intensity a little bit.”
His second warning? Even a small shift in public opinion could make the difference in a close Senate race or two, and that could decide who controls that powerful chamber.
Then there is his third and final warning: that nothing has happened yet. All we have seen is a draft of the court opinion, leaked to Politico.
Crowds of protesters flocked to the Supreme Court last week to express their anger at the leaked draft decision. They include Sarah Elder of Baltimore, who called the report devastating and a sign of a push back toward oppression.
She said that she thinks it will influence the midterms. “Hopefully, she will inspire a lot of people who were undecided to come out and vote for our cause,” she said.
But the actual judicial decision will only be known in July, and the reality of the state’s repression against abortion will only be seen afterwards. And that is why Frankovic refrains from judging the political consequences.
“We really have to wait until the decision comes,” he said. “This is not the last word on it.”