Roe v. Wade

Roe v Wade Re-engaging American Electorate, New Polls Suggest

Google searches related to voting and the midterms also surged last week after publication of a draft Roe v Wade opinion

Abortion rights — largely absent from most Americans' political radars one week ago — are now re-engaging many voters in the political process, according to new polling conducted by Morning Consult in the days following last week’s news that the Supreme Court may be on the verge of striking down the 49-year-old precedent set by Roe v. Wade.

Fifty-two percent of voters, including 54% of Democrats, responded to a new Morning Consult/Politico poll that they were “extremely” or “very” enthusiastic about voting in this fall’s midterm elections, up four and six points, respectively, from a similar poll taken just before the abortion news broke.

Republican enthusiasm also appeared to have ticked up two points following the news, with 61% of GOP voters now indicating they are “extremely” or “very” enthusiastic about voting in the midterms.  The polls’ margins of error were each two percent.

More From NBCLX

U.S. Maternal Death Rates Are Already High — What Happens Post Roe v. Wade?

One Man's Mission to Document the History of Brooklyn Neighborhoods

The largest increases in the highly-enthusiastic came from Democratic women, who surged 11 points to 51%, and Republican men, who saw a seven-point increase to 74%.  There were also bigger jumps in interest among Millennial and Gen X voters than there were among Gen Z adults or Baby Boomers.

Search traffic related to voting and the fall midterms also spiked last week, while other surveys conducted after the abortion news broke indicate America is paying a lot more attention to the courts than they had been previously.

A poll conducted by The Economist & YouGov found 37% of Americans had strong feelings — either positive or negative — about the U.S. Supreme Court last week, compared to just 24% prior to the abortion news

Overall, the poll also found a large shift in how Americans feel the Supreme Court is handling its job — with the biggest negative change among U.S. women:

  • April 26-27: 33% women approve, 38% disapprove (-5%);
  • May 4-8: 27% women approve, 52% disapprove (-25%);
  • April 26-27: 46% men approve, 38% disapprove (+8%);
  • May 4-8: 43% men approve, 45% disapprove (-2%).

While Democrats and progressive groups have had some of the loudest voices in response to the news, it’s unclear how much — if at all — the increased interest from the American public will benefit progressives in November.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Shumer (D-N.Y.) will keep the issue front-of-mind this week by calling for a vote on a bill that would codify Roe v. Wade into federal law, in an effort to supersede state laws that restrict abortion rights.

The bill passed the House, 218-211, mostly along party lines; however it is expected to fail in the Senate, coming nowhere close to the 60 votes needed to defeat a filibuster.  It’s not clear if Democrats even have 50 votes to symbolically support the bill with a Senate majority.

But the vote could be an important piece of Democratic strategy to focus the fall election on lawmakers who won’t vote to expand access to abortion, rather than issues like inflation and immigration that have dragged President Biden’s approval ratings well below 50%.

Other recent polling has revealed liberal voters — young adults, in particular — have grown increasingly frustrated and disengaged from the political process since November 2020, leading to significant dropoffs in turnout for several 2021 and 2022 elections so far.

Google searches related to voting and midterms also surged

Although not a proportional sample to the U.S. electorate, Google data indicates huge search surges for the phrase “register to vote” last week, after the draft opinion was leaked.  The phrase saw its highest search numbers in the 18 months since the 2020 election.

Searches related to “midterm elections” also surged, reaching their highest levels since November 2018.

And searches related to abortion last week reached a level six times higher than either inflation or immigration — two other top priorities for many voters heading into the midterms — had reached at any time in the last twelve months.

Voter-mobilization groups also reported increases in interest last week, with Rock the Vote — a nonpartisan organization aimed at engaging young adults in the political process — reporting voter registration upticks in at least 14 states, including some of the nation’s most progressive states (Connecticut, Delaware), some of the most conservative states (Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, South Dakota), and some considered political battlegrounds (Arizona, Virginia, Wisconsin).

Indivisible, an organization designed to support a national network of progressive groups, also reported a surge in new volunteers.

“Young people are mobilizing, but also some of the most animated folks we're hearing from in the Indivisible movement are folks who remember a time before Roe, who might have had scary personal experiences, who absolutely refuse to let the country backslide on their watch,” said Emily Phelps, National Press Secretary for Indivisible. “Democrats are going to need that type of energy in November.”

But anti-abortion groups have reported similar energy in the last week, with leaders in the movement pledging to continue their work, state-by-state.

“We had a lot of volunteers calling us; they felt like it is such an exciting time in history,” said Sarah Zagorski, Communications Director for Louisiana Right to Life. “While abortion may be illegal, the culture of abortion hasn’t left us [and] there’s always going to be women in crisis pregnancies.  Our focus is on them.”

Noah Pransky is NBCLX’s National Political Editor. He covers Washington and state politics for NBCLX, and his investigative work has been honored with national Murrow, Polk, duPont, and Cronkite awards. You can contact him confidentially at noah.pransky@nbcuni.com or on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.