There is every reason to expect a close election.
Instead, Tuesday’s huge victory for abortion rights supporters in Kansas provided some of the most concrete evidence that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has changed the political landscape. A 59-41 victory in the GOP stronghold suggests Democrats will be a dynamic party on issues where the GOP usually has an enthusiastic edge.
The Kansas vote means that about 65% of voters nationwide will reject similar initiatives to eliminate abortion rights, including more than 40 of the 50 states (with a handful of states on both sides very close to 50-50). This is a rough estimate based on how demographic characteristics predict the outcome of the recent abortion referendum. But it’s an evidence-based way to draw a fairly obvious conclusion: If abortion rights win 59 percent of support in Kansas, it’s doing even better than nationally.
That’s in line with a recent national survey that showed greater support for legal abortion following a court ruling. High turnout, especially among Democrats, confirms that abortion is not just an important issue for political activists. The stakes for abortion policy have become high enough that it could drive midterm-like high turnout on its own.
None of this proves that the question will help Democrats in the midterms. The information that can be gleaned from the Kansas data is limited. But the uneven dominance makes one thing clear: The political wind is now behind abortion rights supporters.
Surprisingly decisive result
There wasn’t much public vote on the eve of the Kansas election, but the best data available suggests voters are likely to be fairly evenly split on abortion.
In a compilation of The Times national polls published this spring, 48 percent of Kansas voters said they thought abortion should be mostly legal, while 47 percent said it should be illegal. same, Cooperative Election Research 2020 found that the state Registered voters are divided on whether abortion is legal.
The results of recent similar referendums in Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia also point to a close race in Kansas — and possibly even a “no” vote to preserve abortion rights Advantage.
Like Kansas’ vote, each of the four states voted “yes” to the initiative, which would amend the state constitution to allow significant restrictions on abortion rights or funding for abortion. Compared to Kansas, the initiatives passed in all four states, including a 24-point win in Louisiana in 2020. But support for abortion rights outpaced support for Democratic presidential candidates in relatively white areas of all four states, especially in less religious areas outside the Deep South.
The pattern suggests that abortion rights will have greater support than Joe Biden in relatively white states like Kansas—maybe even enough to keep abortion rights alive.
Given the state’s long tradition of voting Republicans, it may seem surprising that abortion supporters have a chance even in Kansas. But Kansas Republicans are more reliable than conservatives. The state has an above-average number of college graduates, a group that has tilted toward Democrats in recent years.
Kansas supports Donald J. Trump in 2020 by roughly 15 percentage points fairly safe republican. For Democrats, however, it’s not entirely off the board. Republicans have learned this the hard way. Just look at the 2018 Democratic victory in the gubernatorial race.
Even so, a landslide victory for abortion rights in Kansas doesn’t seem like a likely outcome, whether based on polls or recent initiatives. Most likely explanation for the surprise: Voters may be more supportive of abortion rights after Roe’s overthrow (as national polls suggest); now that these moves have practical policy consequences, they may be more supportive of removing abortion rights Caution; abortion rights supporters may be more motivated to vote.
Abortion rights supporters may not always find advancing their cause so easy. They’re defending the status quo in Kansas; elsewhere, they’ll try to overturn the abortion ban.
Whatever the explanation, if abortion proponents do as well as Kansas, they will have a good chance of defending abortion rights almost anywhere in the country.The state may not be as conservative as Alabama, but it’s much more conservative than the entire country—and it turns out not to be close. In only seven states — in the Deep South and Mountain West — abortion rights supporters are expected to fail a hypothetical similar initiative.
If there’s any rule about partisan turnout in American politics, it’s that registered Republicans turn out higher than registered Democrats.
While Kansas data is still preliminary, registered Democrats appear to be more likely to vote than registered Republicans.
Overall, 276,000 voters turned out in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, compared with 451,000 in the Republican primary. Democrats make up 56 percent of registered Democrats in the state, while Republican primary voters make up 53 percent of registered Republicans. (unaffiliated voters are The second largest group in Kansas. )
In Johnson County, outside Kansas City, Missouri, 67 percent of registered Democrats turn outcompared with 60 percent of registered Republicans.
It’s a rare feat for Democrats in a high-turnout election. In nearby Iowa, where historical turnout data is readily available, registered Democrats have never voted more than registered Republicans in a general election in at least 40 years.
The higher Democratic turnout helps explain why the results for abortion opponents were less favorable than expected. It confirms that Democrats are now more active on abortion, reversing the pattern of recent elections. It could even give Democrats hope that they can counter a long-term trend of low turnout in the president’s party in midterm elections.
For Republicans, the turnout data could offer a silver lining. They may have reason to hope for higher turnout in November’s midterm elections, when abortion won’t be the only issue on the ballot, and Republicans will have more reasons to vote — including taking control of Congress.