Most voters know who killed Roe. The ones who don't could still matter

The New York Times posted a seemingly eye-catching headline Wednesday about its recent Siena battleground state poll, claiming that 17% of voters blame President Joe Biden for the end of Roe v. Wade. As with most issues, the rub was really in the cross tabs of the poll: 78% of Democrats rightly blame Donald Trump for upending a constitutional right to abortion, as did a 42% plurality of Republicans.  Nonetheless, 12% of Democrats said Biden deserved at least some of the blame, while nearly a quarter of Republicans and 18% of independents said the same. Abortion is undoubtedly a strength of Biden’s. The progressive consortium Navigator Research has conducted the most comprehensive poll on the topic since Trump declared states would be the ultimate arbiters of abortion care access. The survey found that voters were quite clear on who is responsible for the current chaos sweeping the country and who poses the biggest threat to reproductive freedom moving forward: 62% held Trump responsible for the end of Roe (the Siena poll found 56% said Trump bore some/most of the responsibility) 65% now say Trump thinks abortion should be illegal in all or most cases—a 9-point increase since last September 55% think Trump would sign a national abortion ban, though he has not committed to either signing or vetoing one The Navigator poll drew one more important conclusion: While abortion was not voters' top issue (inflation was), it was the top deal-breaker issue for voters. A 38% plurality said a candidate holding an opposing view on abortion would be a deal breaker for them, including 53% of Democrats. While it might seem impossible for anyone to be misinformed about who "killed" Roe, as Trump once put it, the Times notes that the main source of that confusion stems from the timing of the Supreme Court's 2022 Dobbs ruling, which reversed Roe. Because the Dobbs decision came down during Biden’s term, lower information voters—where Biden needs to make up ground—sometimes don't realize that Trump is responsible. Not only did he predict Roe would be overturned if he were elected president, but he also appointed the three right-wing justices who gave the high court's anti-abortion wing the votes necessary to do it. Thirty-year-old DeLana Marsh from Georgia fit the profile of a low information voter who supports abortion rights but "was under the impression that Mr. Biden was responsible because it happened during his presidency," according to the Times. Overall, the Times poll found that most battleground voters get it, with anywhere from four to six times as many voters primarily holding Trump responsible for overturning Roe instead of Biden. But in a race that will surely be decided on the margins, making sure lower information voters are clear about Trump's culpability gives Biden an opening to scoop up more votes. “This group is a pickup opportunity for Democrats,” Democratic pollster Celinda Lake told the Times.  She said some of the confusion is a feature of Trump's obfuscation on the matter.  “He has intentionally kept it vague. But when we show voters his statements in his own words, that is enough to persuade them,” Lake added. Amid voter confusion in battleground states on who was responsible for ending Roe, one stood out: Nevada, a state that is overwhelmingly pro-choice, will likely feature an abortion rights ballot measure in November, and where roughly one-quarter of voters are completely new to the political process every two years. Nevada was the only battleground state in the survey where a double-digit share of voters primarily blamed Biden for ending the right to an abortion, with 10% saying he bore "a lot of responsibility" (anywhere from 5% to 8% blamed Biden in the other swing states). Three times as many Nevada voters primarily blamed Trump, at 31%.  By comparison, seven times as many Wisconsin voters blamed Trump, as did six times as many Pennsylvania voters, while roughly five times as many did in Michigan and Arizona. Every battleground state will likely be a squeaker this year, but in Nevada, Biden is currently trailing Trump by nearly 7 points in 538's aggregate.  Hammering Trump for his role in triggering the country's abortion care crisis provides Biden with a real toe-hold for gaining ground in Nevada, where the issue will be top of mind for voters—nearly two-thirds of whom support freedom of choice. Ian Bassin is the former associate White House counsel and co-founder and executive director of Protect Democracy. Protect Democracy is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group focused on anti-authoritarianism, how to protect our democracy, and safeguarding our free and fair elections. Embedded Content Campaign Action

Most voters know who killed Roe. The ones who don't could still matter

The New York Times posted a seemingly eye-catching headline Wednesday about its recent Siena battleground state poll, claiming that 17% of voters blame President Joe Biden for the end of Roe v. Wade.

As with most issues, the rub was really in the cross tabs of the poll: 78% of Democrats rightly blame Donald Trump for upending a constitutional right to abortion, as did a 42% plurality of Republicans. 

Nonetheless, 12% of Democrats said Biden deserved at least some of the blame, while nearly a quarter of Republicans and 18% of independents said the same.

Abortion is undoubtedly a strength of Biden’s. The progressive consortium Navigator Research has conducted the most comprehensive poll on the topic since Trump declared states would be the ultimate arbiters of abortion care access. The survey found that voters were quite clear on who is responsible for the current chaos sweeping the country and who poses the biggest threat to reproductive freedom moving forward:

  • 62% held Trump responsible for the end of Roe (the Siena poll found 56% said Trump bore some/most of the responsibility)

  • 65% now say Trump thinks abortion should be illegal in all or most cases—a 9-point increase since last September

  • 55% think Trump would sign a national abortion ban, though he has not committed to either signing or vetoing one

The Navigator poll drew one more important conclusion: While abortion was not voters' top issue (inflation was), it was the top deal-breaker issue for voters. A 38% plurality said a candidate holding an opposing view on abortion would be a deal breaker for them, including 53% of Democrats.

While it might seem impossible for anyone to be misinformed about who "killed" Roe, as Trump once put it, the Times notes that the main source of that confusion stems from the timing of the Supreme Court's 2022 Dobbs ruling, which reversed Roe. Because the Dobbs decision came down during Biden’s term, lower information voters—where Biden needs to make up ground—sometimes don't realize that Trump is responsible. Not only did he predict Roe would be overturned if he were elected president, but he also appointed the three right-wing justices who gave the high court's anti-abortion wing the votes necessary to do it.

Thirty-year-old DeLana Marsh from Georgia fit the profile of a low information voter who supports abortion rights but "was under the impression that Mr. Biden was responsible because it happened during his presidency," according to the Times.

Overall, the Times poll found that most battleground voters get it, with anywhere from four to six times as many voters primarily holding Trump responsible for overturning Roe instead of Biden. But in a race that will surely be decided on the margins, making sure lower information voters are clear about Trump's culpability gives Biden an opening to scoop up more votes.

“This group is a pickup opportunity for Democrats,” Democratic pollster Celinda Lake told the Times. 

She said some of the confusion is a feature of Trump's obfuscation on the matter. 

“He has intentionally kept it vague. But when we show voters his statements in his own words, that is enough to persuade them,” Lake added.

Amid voter confusion in battleground states on who was responsible for ending Roe, one stood out: Nevada, a state that is overwhelmingly pro-choice, will likely feature an abortion rights ballot measure in November, and where roughly one-quarter of voters are completely new to the political process every two years.

Nevada was the only battleground state in the survey where a double-digit share of voters primarily blamed Biden for ending the right to an abortion, with 10% saying he bore "a lot of responsibility" (anywhere from 5% to 8% blamed Biden in the other swing states). Three times as many Nevada voters primarily blamed Trump, at 31%. 

By comparison, seven times as many Wisconsin voters blamed Trump, as did six times as many Pennsylvania voters, while roughly five times as many did in Michigan and Arizona.

Every battleground state will likely be a squeaker this year, but in Nevada, Biden is currently trailing Trump by nearly 7 points in 538's aggregate. 

Hammering Trump for his role in triggering the country's abortion care crisis provides Biden with a real toe-hold for gaining ground in Nevada, where the issue will be top of mind for voters—nearly two-thirds of whom support freedom of choice.

Ian Bassin is the former associate White House counsel and co-founder and executive director of Protect Democracy. Protect Democracy is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group focused on anti-authoritarianism, how to protect our democracy, and safeguarding our free and fair elections.

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