Just wanted to add one thing to my earlier post about abortion as a political/campaign issue in Texas in 2023-24. In addition to the question of support for or opposition to abortion, most polls also ask questions about what issues voters prioritize. Sometimes they give the respondents a list, sometimes they let the respondents volunteer their answers. You can see examples in the Texas Politics Project polls and in various national polls, among others. The idea here is to try to get a handle on the issues that are actually motivating people to vote, as well as understand which way they would go.
Generally speaking, abortion is not a top-cited issue in most polls. Even in 2022, even among Democrats and the voters Democrats were trying to reach, it wasn’t the top issue. Inflation, crime, the state of democracy, climate change, and abortion were among the top issues for Dems last year, while for Republicans it was inflation, crime, and immigration. There is of course a subset of voters for whom abortion as been The One Issue, but that’s a small group and they are the hardest of the hardcore forced-birth contingent.
Abortion is absolutely becoming a more salient issue for Democrats, where it fits into a panoply of related issues that we see as being genuinely threatened by radical far-right legislators and their enablers on the courts. Voting rights, democracy in general, LGBTQ+ rights, gun control, fights against book bans and “critical race theory” and “don’t say gay” laws and drag show bans and on and on, they’re all of a piece. Dems are increasingly (though still not entirely) unified on these issues, and they both poll better overall and tend to have appeal to a class of voter that used to be on the other team. There are still disagreements – there will always be disagreements – but the Bart Stupak contingent is now vanishingly small. I’d say a fair number of more recent converts, the post-2016 crowd in particular, which includes some of our more energetic activists, came on board in part over abortion rights and the fear of the Roe reversal that was to come.
What’s clear from the polling data we have is that support for abortion rights, even in a more-limited-than-we’d-like manner, significantly exceeds the vote share that pro-choice politicians get. Here in Texas, there are three issues on which public support is totally disconnected from legislative action: Expanded gambling, marijuana decriminalization, and abortion rights. The first two can largely be explained as “Dan Patrick opposes them”, but the third is entirely due to people who say they support abortion rights – again, even in the very limited “rape/incest/health of the mother” way – voting for Republican candidates that support making abortion 100% illegal.
How do we get these Republican voters who want to have at least some access to legal abortion in Texas to stop voting for forced-birth extremists? If I knew the answer to that, I’d be pelting Colin Allred and Roland Gutierrez with my resume to be their campaign manager. I can’t say with certainty that there’s a way to reach these people and change their minds, or at least their voting behavior, even in just one or two key races. But I believe there is, and I believe we can and must try to find it. I believe we did not try to take advantage of this change in the national mood last year – we did try to persuade people about the failures of the grid and our deadly gun laws, with which I have no quarrel other than they ultimately didn’t work – and we must try it next year. I believe we can learn from what activists did in states like Kansas and Michigan and Pennsylvania. I believe there is a risk both of going too far and pushing past the comfort levels of the “I support women who need abortions, but I’m icked out by the women who want them” voters, and also of angering and enervating the activists who want the politicians they support to be as bold and courageous as they are by trying to accommodate the former. I believe we have no choice but to try, whatever the risks are.
Like I said, I don’t know the answers. I’m just trying to frame the questions. I welcome your feedback.