This really was an abortion election

Planned Parenthood
Signage is displayed outside a Planned Parenthood office. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

This really was an abortion election

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Looking at the national exit polls, abortion looks like an important but not controlling issue in this year’s election. But when you drill down and look at what statewide exit polling is publicly available, it becomes clear that the relative importance of abortion in each state was the decisive factor.

Let’s start with Pennsylvania, where abortion was the most important issue for voters, beating out inflation 37% to 28%. Nationally, the opposite was true, where inflation beat abortion 31% to 27%. With abortion as the most important issue, Democrats had a great night in Pennsylvania, winning the governor’s office by 14 points and the U.S. Senate seat by 5 points.


Contrast Pennsylvania with Florida, where instead of abortion beating inflation by 11 points, inflation beat abortion by 15 points. In fact, no state polled by the National Election Pool had abortion as a lower priority for voters than Florida. Just 24% of Florida voters named it their top issue. Perhaps relatedly, Republicans did better in Florida than they did in any other state, sweeping all statewide offices, including a 20-point win for Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Abortion was also a nonfactor in Ohio, where just 26% said it was their top issue and Republican J.D. Vance squeaked by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) 53% to 47%.

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, abortion was a prominent issue, with 35% of voters naming it as their top concern, compared to 36% who chose inflation. Republican retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc won the U.S. Senate primary by promising to fight for “a system that protects lives from beginning to end.” Bolduc did reject Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) national 15-week ban, but Graham’s bill only made it easier for Democrats to label Bolduc a vote to end abortion. Bolduc lost to Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), who made abortion the issue of her campaign, 54% to 44%.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, did cruise to victory at the same time Bolduc lost, but Sununu had recently signed a 24-week abortion ban, and he made it clear he had no intention of restricting abortion any further.

Similarly, DeSantis also signed an abortion ban before Roe v. Wade was overturned, a 15-week ban, and he also declined to push any further restrictions after Roe was overturned, thus neutralizing the issue.

Elections are ultimately about changing public policy. Conservatives spent generations trying to overturn Roe, and what little evidence is available shows this policy win has already saved thousands of lives. This is a big win that conservatives should not give up.

But conservatives also need to be realistic about how best to further the pro-life cause going forward. A national abortion ban forced on states does not seem to calm the issue. Statewide bans tailored to each state’s opinion on the issue seem to be the better bet.


© 2022 Washington Examiner

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