My God. The backlash is real. The red tsunami has become a red kiddie pool!
That’s what NPR would have you believe, at least.
This data is noteworthy but it’s dishonestly presented to imply a much bigger impact from the Dobbs ruling than really exists.
This issue presents volatility into the 2022 midterms, because 78% of Democrats say the court’s decision makes them more likely to vote this fall, 24 points higher than Republicans.
A bare majority of 51% say they would definitely vote for a candidate who would support a federal law to restore the right to an abortion, while 36% would definitely vote against such a candidate…
Democrats have regained the favor of voters to control Congress, with 48% saying they are more likely to vote for a Democratic candidate in the fall and 41% more likely to vote for a Republican. In April, Republicans led on that question in the poll 47% to 44%, which was within the margin of error. However, the lead for Democrats may not translate into maintaining control due to the way voters are geographically distributed and how boundaries of congressional districts are drawn.
Democrats went from -3 in April to +7 now, a 10-point swing in two months. That’s a big deal.
But isn’t something missing from that last paragraph? There’s a month that comes between April and June, no?
If you flip your calendar back to May, you’ll find that NPR also polled the generic ballot then. Result: Democrats led 47-42. In other words, of the 10 points the party has supposedly gained since April, eight of them were gained before Dobbs was handed down.
It’s possible that the leak of Alito’s draft opinion drove that eight-point shift, as the May NPR poll was conducted a week after it happened. But if it did, it’s curious that that D+5 result turned out to be an extreme outlier: Of 23 other surveys conducted since then, not one has found Dems ahead by that much. Only four of the 23 have found Democrats leading at all. Republicans lead on 15 out of the 23, in some cases by eight or nine points — uncharted territory in this metric. If there’s a backlash to Dobbs among the public that began gathering after the leak, somehow only NPR seems to have picked it up.
Ed reminds me that NPR’s polling also found Biden enjoying a huge eight-point bounce in job approval after the State of the Union in March. How has that worked out?
There’s another potential problem:
Something to monitor. The concern is always that news events anger Dem-leaning voters >> they take surveys at higher rates (in a way the flimsy weighting scheme can't handle) >> "illusory" 10-point swing in margin. https://t.co/EyF6xUtOxj
— Jonathan Robinson (@jon_m_rob) June 27, 2022
Republican insiders aren’t worried, whispering to reporters that the red tsunami is still inbound:
As the national operative explained it, “the problem that Democrats have here is that people who really care about abortion and are single-issue pro-choice voters are already all voting Democratic. If you dive into the polling, they are already squeezing every bit of juice out of young college-educated women, who are the group of people most motivated by this.”
And some of the Republicans thought it could actually be a net plus for the GOP in the fall. This was not because of the impact of the issue per se, but a sense that Democrats would turn it into a self-inflicted wound. “Democrats are going to overplay their hand,” one well-connected Republican predicted. “They overplay every hand they get.” The insider thought, for instance, that “there’s going to be violence and [Democrats are] not going to denounce the violence.” Another red-state operative put it more bluntly: The sight of “a bunch of pink-haired women lighting fires in the streets” was not going to motivate moderate pro-choice women to vote for Democrats.
A senior Capitol Hill staffer made a similar point: “The left has lost the plot so much, it will neutralize what will be a vote-moving issue. The traditional left argument is about protecting women, but now they can’t even say what a woman is.”
Democrats surely are at risk of overplaying their hand. For instance, here’s political genius Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez looking for ways to further shrink her party:
Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: "Not every Democrat is pro-choice…we really need to reassess if it's appropriate for them to continue to serve." pic.twitter.com/QeMwGUfao0
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) June 26, 2022
Don’t forget either that some unknown but sizable percentage of Americans assuredly heard the news that Roe had been overturned, leaped to the conclusion that abortion was now banned in all 50 states, and reacted with anger when a pollster called them up. Whatever unhappiness they’re feeling will ease a bit once they discover the truth.
All of that said, you shouldn’t be sanguine about the situation either. Three different polls surveying reaction to the Dobbs decision this weekend confirmed that it’s as unpopular as it was expected to be. NPR finds Americans opposed 40/56; CBS has it 41/59; and YouGov has it 37/50. The numbers among independents are ugly too, with CBS finding them split 38/62 against the ruling and YouGov seeing it at 33/57. The red wave is still on track but it may have lost some speed as it approaches the shore.
Anger about the ruling will fade in time. But anger about the legislative consequences of the ruling may not, depending on what red states do with their new power. Republicans are at greater risk of overplaying their hand than Democrats are, after all, since most of the public agrees that abortion should be legal at some point during a pregnancy. According to Rolling Stone, none other than Donald J. Trump is worried that GOP legislatures will move too aggressively to ban abortion this summer instead of settling for more cautious measures like banning later-term terminations. Multiple reports over the last few days have claimed that Trump is publicly exulting about owning the libs but privately fretting about the electoral impact of the ruling. “He keeps sh*tting all over his greatest accomplishment. When you speak to him, it’s the response of someone fearing the backlash and fearing the politics of what happens when conservatives actually get what they want [on abortion],” one source told RS.
I assume Trump’s already thinking ahead to 2024 and 2025. “I’m the guy who made it possible for states to totally ban abortion!” is a great pitch in a Republican presidential primary but not so great in a general election. And if he wins a second term anyway, pro-lifers will demand that he and a Republican-controlled Congress move to pass a federal abortion ban immediately. Does he dare say no to them, despite his misgivings about doing that? He’ll be a lame duck so he won’t have to worry about electoral consequences by defying them. But he’d hate being seen by “his people” as a cuck traitor who wouldn’t “fight” in the end.