There was every reason to expect an upcoming election.
Instead, abortion rights advocates’ resounding victory Tuesday in Kansas provided some of the most concrete evidence yet that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade transformed the political landscape. The victory, by a margin of 59-41 in the Republican stronghold, indicates that Democrats will be the active party in an issue where Republicans usually have the edge of enthusiasm.
The Kansas vote indicates that about 65 percent of voters nationwide would reject a similar initiative to roll back abortion rights, including in more than 40 of the 50 states (some states on each side are very close to 50-50). This is a rough estimate, based on how demographic characteristics predict the results of recent abortion referendums. But it’s an evidence-based way to get to a fairly straightforward conclusion: If abortion rights win the support of 59% in Kansas, they perform better than that nationally.
It’s a number in line with recent national surveys that showed greater support for legal abortion after the court’s decision. The high turnout, especially among Democrats, underscores that abortion is not just a wedge issue of importance to political activists. The risks of abortion policy are high enough that it can lead to a midterm-style vote turnout on its own.
None of this proves that the case will help Democrats in the midterm elections. There are limits to what can be extracted from the KS data. But the lopsided margin makes one thing clear: the political winds are now on the backs of abortion rights advocates.
Surprisingly decisive result
There wasn’t much universal suffrage in the run-up to the Kansas election, but the best available data suggests that voters are probably fairly evenly divided on abortion.
In the Times set of a national poll published this spring, 48 percent of Kansas voters said they believed abortion should be mostly legal compared to 47 percent who thought it should be mostly illegal. Similarly, the 2020 Collaborative Election Study found that the state Registered voters were evenly split over whether abortion should be legal.
Recent similar poll results in Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia also indicated a tight race in Kansas — and a “no” vote to preserve abortion rights might be preferable.
As with the Kansas vote, a “yes” vote in each of those four states’ initiative would amend the state constitution to allow significant restrictions on abortion rights or abortion funding. Unlike Kansas, the initiatives passed in all four states, including a 24-point win in Louisiana in 2020. But support for abortion rights has outstripped support for Democratic presidential candidates in relatively white districts in all four states, especially in less religious areas outside the Deep South. .
It’s a pattern that suggests abortion rights will have much more support than Joe Biden did as a candidate in a relatively white state like Kansas — and perhaps that’s enough to make abortion rights a survival favourite.
It might seem surprising that abortion supporters would have a chance in Kansas, given the state’s long tradition of voting Republicans. But Kansas is a more trusted republic than a conservative. The state has an above-average number of college graduates, a group that has turned toward Democrats in recent years.
Kansas voted for Donald J. Trump by about 15 percentage points in 2020, enough to make it a secure Republican. However, that’s not quite that far off the board for Democrats. Republicans learned this the hard way. Look no further than the Democrats’ 2018 victory in the governor’s race.
However, a landslide victory for abortion rights in Kansas does not appear to be a likely outcome, either based on opinion polls or recent initiatives. The most likely explanations for the surprise: Voters may be more supportive of abortion rights in the wake of the Roe overturn (as national polls indicate); They may be more cautious about repealing abortion rights now that there have been real political consequences for these initiatives; Abortion rights advocates may be more active to go to the polls.
Abortion rights advocates may not always find it easy to promote their cause. They were defending the status quo in Kansas. Elsewhere, they will try to overturn the abortion ban.
Whatever the explanation, if abortion advocates are as successful as they did in Kansas, they will stand a good chance of championing abortion rights almost anywhere in the country. The state may not be as conservative as Alabama, but it is far more conservative than the nation as a whole—and the result hasn’t been. close. There are only seven states — in the Deep South and in the Western Mountains — where abortion rights advocates are expected to fail a similar initiative by default.
turning in rotation
If there is any rule about partisan participation in American politics, it is that registered Republicans get higher rates than registered Democrats.
While the Kansas numbers are still preliminary, it appears that registered Democrats were more inclined to vote than registered Republicans.
In all, 276,000 voters took part in the Democratic primary, which was also held on Tuesday, compared to the 451,000 who voted in the Republican primary. Democrats numbered 56 percent of the state’s registered Democrats, while Republican primary voters numbered 53 percent of registered Republicans. (Unaffiliated voters are the second largest group in Kansas.)
In Johnson County, outside of Kansas City, Missouri, 67 percent of registered Democrats attended, compared to 60 percent of registered Republicans.
This is a rare achievement for Democrats in a high-turnout election. In nearby Iowa, where historical turnout data is easily accessible, turnout among Democrats registered in the general election has not outperformed that of registered Republicans in at least 40 years.
The superior Democratic turnout helps explain why the outcome was less favorable to abortion opponents than expected. He maintains that Democrats are now more active on the abortion issue, reflecting a pattern from the recent elections. It may even raise Democrats’ hopes that they can challenge the president’s party’s long-term trend of low turnout in the midterm elections.
For Republicans, the turnout numbers may offer a modest ray of hope. They might reasonably hope that turnout will be more positive in the November midterm elections, when abortion is not the only issue on the ballot and Republicans will have many reasons to vote — including control of Congress.