What Pence doesn’t understand about abortion and public opinion

After Republican-appointed justices on the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month, former Vice President Mike Pence not only issued a celebratory statement, the Republican also called for a national abortion ban affecting “every state in the land.”

At an event last week in South Carolina, Pence echoed the goal, and as NBC News noted, the former vice president also suggested that the American electorate is broadly on board with the kind of systemic restrictions on reproductive rights he’s eager to impose.

In the evening, he spoke at a church service in Florence, South Carolina, where he drew a standing ovation after a speech praising the end of abortion rights and discussing what comes next. “The tide has turned in this nation,” Pence told about 1,500 congregants at Florence Baptist Temple. “Many more are with us than are with them. Don’t ever doubt it.”

Or, alternatively, conservatives should absolutely doubt it.

There’s no denying the obvious fact that abortion remains a contentious and divisive issue. That’s been true for decades, and it’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

But for Pence to believe — and declare out loud — that “many more” Americans agree with him and his allies about reproductive rights is plainly at odds with reality.

Indeed, the day after the Republican Hoosier’s remarks, the Associated Press ran this report about its latest national survey:

Polling ahead of the June 24 decision suggested that overturning Roe would be unpopular with a majority of Americans who wanted to see the court uphold the 50-year precedent. The new poll, roughly three weeks after the decision, finds 53% of U.S. adults say they disapprove of the court’s decision, while 30% say they approve…. Sixty percent think Congress should pass a law guaranteeing access to legal abortion nationwide.

To be sure, it’s generally best not to draw sweeping conclusions from a single survey, but therein lies the point: Every major independent poll of late has pointed in the same direction.

Early last month, for example, shortly before the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was issued, Gallup found Americans identifying as “pro-choice” at a level unseen in nearly three decades.

As we’ve discussed, the same day that data became available, a Wall Street Journal poll found that “more than two-thirds of Americans want to uphold Roe v. Wade, and most favor women having access to legal abortion for any reason.”

An NBC News poll pointed in the same direction, showing support for abortion rights reaching a record high, and roughly two-thirds of Americans expressing opposition to the Supreme Court overturning Roe.

In mid-June, a Pew Research Center survey found that a 61 percent majority of U.S. adults said abortion should be legal “in all or most cases.” Once the Dobbs ruling was issued, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 56 percent of Americans disagreed with it.

“Many more are with us than are with them”? Nice try, but no.

If Pence and his allies believe they can persuade the American mainstream to move away from reproductive rights, they’re certainly welcome to try. But to claim that they’ve already persuaded the American mainstream is plainly dishonest.

That said, perhaps the former vice president is convinced that independent pollsters are wrong and that “the tide” really has turned in the right’s direction when it comes to reproductive health. Why not test that proposition?

Democrats and Republicans can make this issue a centerpiece of the 2022 midterm elections, and we’ll see which side of the debate has “many more” supporters.


June 17, 202204:49