CNN Poll: SCOTUS draft decision hasn't changed the overall picture for the midterm elections

CNN Poll: SCOTUS draft decision hasn't changed the overall picture for the midterm elections
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Elizabeth Warren is really angry. Chuck Schumer is really angry. Hillary Clinton is really angry. And Joe Biden is…well, he just sounds slightly confused as always. But if you’ve spent any time on Twitter (or the comments section at the Washington Post) lately then you already know the anger over the draft decision is overflowing. And for Democrats that probably felt both familiar and like a tremendous relief. Familiar because it was a return to their glory days during the Trump administration when all the resistance had to do was angrily resist everything and success would follow. And also a relief because here at last was an issue they could run on in the coming election, an election where all signs so far have pointed to the likelihood of a shellacking for Dems.


Just two days ago, NBC News reported the leaked decision had created a “seismic shift” in the political landscape, one which Democrats nationwide were eager to capitalize on:

Not yet 24 hours after the publication of a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn constitutional protections of abortion rights, Democrats at every level across the country were capitalizing on a potentially seismic shift in the political landscape that could upend what was to have been a bloodbath of a midterm election for an otherwise disillusioned party.

Attacks on Republican candidates are underway, as are a flurry of pleas for donations. Ads defending abortion rights are rapidly populating social media. The Democratic National Committee launched a text messaging campaign to move people to the streets, while some of the most powerful Democratic groups in the country were huddling to reshape their messaging.

Alas, CNN has a new poll out today which finds no evidence of a seismic shift in the electorate: [emphasis added]

Sixty-six percent say Roe v. Wade should not be completely struck down, and 59% would support Congress passing legislation to establish a nationwide right to abortion, including 81% of Democrats, 65% of independents and 30% of Republicans, the survey finds.

But comparing the results of the new poll to one conducted immediately before the revelation of the draft opinion, the impact on the political landscape heading into the 2022 midterms appears fairly muted.

The share of registered voters who say they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting this fall rose 6 points between the first survey and the second, but that increase is about even across party lines. Among Democrats, 43% now say they are extremely or very enthusiastic, up 7 points. Among Republicans, it’s 56%, up 9 points. And voters who say overturning Roe would make them “happy” are nearly twice as enthusiastic about voting this fall as those who say such a ruling would leave them “angry” (38% extremely enthusiastic among those happy, 20% among those angry)…

Those findings suggest the overall picture for the midterm elections is little changed after this week’s news, at least in the short term.


I’m sure this will come as a complete shock to some people but it doesn’t to me. Pro-life voters just learned they are on the cusp of winning a battle they have been fighting for nearly 50 years. Of course they are feeling enthusiastic. Democrats on the other hand just learned they are losing the same battle after just as many years so of course they’re not feeling overwhelmed with enthusiasm.

I made this point on Twitter the other day. When Twitter announced that Elon Musk had bought the company there was suddenly a decline in number of followers for people on the left and at the same time a surge of followers for people on the right. That happened even though Musk didn’t actually have control of the company yet. I still think those sudden shifts look pretty suspicious but Twitter swears they were entirely organic. If that’s true it shows what can happen when people who feel they’ve been on the losing side of something for a long time suddenly have hope of a win or at least of being treated fairly. I think the same is true with the SCOTUS decision. The outrage on the left may drive some enthusiasm but just as likely there will be a surge of activity on the right from people who had felt discouraged and had given up but who are now feeling some hope.

Even the CNN poll suggests something like that may be happening. It’s true that it found 66% oppose striking down Roe but that number is actually down since the leaked draft decision. The percentage who support overturning Roe went form 30% to 34% since the leak. That number could continue to grow as more people learn what the decision would actually mean as opposed to just hearing that Democrats are furious.


Also note that the question itself leaves something to be desired since it misleadingly suggests Roe only protects abortion for 12 weeks. Other polls have consistently shown that support for abortion drops off sharply after that point. Here’s an AP poll from earlier this year. By the second trimester support is down to 34%.

Finally, while I’ll grant that the people who care about Roe will make this their top issue in the fall election, the problem for Democrats is that it’s not likely to be the top issue for most people. Between rising inflation and a looming recession, the economy is going to be the top issue. And on that front, CNN’s poll has more bad news for Democrats:

On the economy — the issue most likely to be a driving factor for voters this fall — nearly half of adults (46%) in the latest poll say the Republican Party’s positions are more aligned with their own, compared with 31% for the Democratic Party.

The poll also found the GOP had a 6 point lead on the generic congressional ballot which CNN’s story describes as “a narrow edge.” But a 6 point advantage after the leak can’t be anything but crushing news to Democrats who were hoping this was their chance to turn back the red tide.

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