December 3, 2022

Democrats have bet heavily on abortion in the midterms. Will their strategy work?

Today Americans vote in their midterm elections. The Democrats’ campaign strategy was to place big bets on abortion rights after Dobbs. They believed that they could capitalise on outrage over the Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn 49 years of legal abortion.

In October President Biden vowed that if his party keeps control of the House and the Senate, “the first bill that I will send to Congress will be to codify Roe v. Wade.” He also promised to veto any later federal legislation to ban abortion.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, it appears that in November voters care more about inflation and a faltering economy than about bioethics. According to CNN:

Hopes that Democrats could use the Supreme Court’s overturning of the right to an abortion and a flurry of legislative wins to stave off the classic midterm election rout of a party in power are now a memory. Biden faces a dark political environment because of the 40-year-high in the cost of living – and his hopes of a swift rebound next year are clouded by growing fears of a recession.

A CNN poll last week found that for 51% of voters, the economy was foremost in their minds. Only 15% said that abortion was. And three-quarters of Americans said that the economy is in recession.

On the other hand, according to William Frey, of the Brookings Institution, “A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that half or more of respondents are more motivated to vote in this year’s midterms because of abortion concerns, especially among women. And according to an Economist/YouGov poll conducted October 29 through November 1, 60% of women said that views on abortion mattered a lot in their voting, compared to 40% of men.”

And Elaine Kamarck, also writing on the Brookings website, argued that women have a lot to lose if they do not support the Democrats. “Everyone born with a uterus has an interest and a stake in the abortion issue that those without a uterus do not have—meaning, the abortion issue will be intense for a lot of people. In addition to the intensity of this issue is the sheer number of females in the population and the electorate.”