NBC wonders: Has Schumer *really* looked at polling on abortion?

Screenshot via C-SPAN

Apparently not, but the GOP has — and NBC News takes note of it too. Chuck Schumer’s redeployment of his futile-and-divisive vote strategy for the third time this year will take place today, according to both NBC and Punchbowl. The Senate Majority Leader will once again lead his Democratic caucus into yet another political box canyon, all in an effort to push an issue Schumer and his team largely misunderstands:


…[T]he result of today’s vote is predetermined. The Democratic effort to overcome the GOP filibuster against Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s (D-Conn.) abortion rights proposal will fail. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will vote against cloture, as will pro-choice GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). This is what the trio did in February on this bill, two months before the blockbuster Supreme Court leak.

Democrats, in fact, don’t even have 50 votes, much less the needed 60 for cloture. That means they also lack the votes needed to end the legislative filibuster by using the “nuclear option” – a Senate rules change by a simple majority vote – the only other even conceivable option to pass this legislation. Democrats didn’t discuss ending the filibuster during their weekly party lunch on Tuesday, despite public calls from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), among others, to do so in order to protect Roe.

You may be asking yourself about the political wisdom of holding this vote if it’s certain to fail. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his leadership team say it’s absolutely essential to show that they’re willing to fight for abortion rights and put every senator on the record.

We may indeed ask just that question, and so should some members of Schumer’s caucus, who might see this as Groundhog Day without the charm. Isn’t that the same justification Schumer used for stunt votes on voting rights and also the Build Back Better bill? At-risk Senate Democrat incumbents should ask whether those votes improved their prospects for re-election, or whether they made matters even worse in a midterm cycle that looks more like a bloodbath as November creeps ever closer.


However, as NBC points out, this box canyon is even boxier than the previous two fights. Democrats keep misinterpreting the polling on abortion, or perhaps more accurately, keep demagoguing on it. The problem with pushing Schumer’s radical, absolutist bill is that it will only appeal to less than 20% of the electorate — and that would be in a good midterm cycle:

While Democrats seek to paint Republicans and their chosen conservative judges as radical, the GOP has spent recent days arguing that Democrats are out of touch with most Americans, who say in surveys they favor some restrictions on legal abortion.

Pew Research Center poll taken in March, before the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion, found that 61 percent of U.S. adults say they want abortion to be mostly legal; but just 19 percent say it should be legal in all cases, without exception.

Schumer’s bill, despite persistent media efforts to describe it as a codification of Roe, goes way beyond both Roe and CaseyIt would permanently federalize abortion as an issue, and allow abortion all the way through a pregnancy up to the moment of birth. It would also preclude any state regulation of the industry and would strip any application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act for health-care providers who refuse to cooperate in an abortion due to religious scruples. It’s the most radical position on abortion possible, far beyond anything the US has ever seen even under the Roe/Casey precedents.


How many Americans agree with that position? Pew Research pegged the number at 19%:

Nearly one-in-five U.S. adults (19%) say that abortion should be legal in all cases, with no exceptions. Fewer (8%) say abortion should be illegal in every case, without exception. By contrast, 71% either say it should be mostly legal or mostly illegal, or say there are exceptions to their blanket support for, or opposition to, legal abortion.

As in the past, more Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances (61%) than illegal in all or most circumstances (37%). But in many ways, the public’s attitudes are contingent upon such circumstances as when an abortion takes place during a woman’s pregnancy, whether the pregnancy endangers a woman’s life and whether a baby would have severe health problems.

Here’s a chart for the first-impulse answers, and this picture demonstrates the problem for Democrats facing elections with this vote on their records:

As for the absolutist position on unrestricted abortion until birth, that’s a loser too:

Combined with the 8% of U.S. adults who say abortion should be against the law in all cases with no exceptions, this means that nearly two-thirds of the public thinks abortion either should be entirely illegal at every stage of a pregnancy or should become illegal, at least in some cases, at some point during the course of a pregnancy. …

Americans are about twice as likely to say abortion should be legal at six weeks than to say it should be illegal at this stage of a pregnancy: 44% of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal at six weeks (including those who say it should be legal in all cases without exception), 21% say it should be illegal at six weeks (including those who say abortion should always be illegal), and another 19% say whether it should be legal or not at six weeks “depends.” (An additional 14% say the stage of pregnancy shouldn’t factor into determining whether abortion is legal or illegal, including 7% who generally think abortion should be legal, and 6% who generally think it should be illegal.)

At 14 weeks, the share saying abortion should be legal declines to 34%, while 27% say illegal and 22% say “it depends.”

When asked about the legality of abortion at 24 weeks of pregnancy (described as a point when a healthy fetus could survive outside the woman’s body, with medical attention), Americans are about twice as likely to say abortion should be illegal as to say it should be legal at this time point (43% vs. 22%), with 18% saying “it depends.”


With this in mind … who exactly are the “extremists”? Hint: They’re not the ones that will march into Schumer’s box canyon to vote for his absolutist bill. Schumer’s pals had better hope that he’s wrong about abortion being a major factor in this election, because if it is, they’ve just made themselves huge political targets in an environment that already was target-rich for the GOP anyway.

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