We find that a majority of the public in about 40 states supports legal abortion rights. Only about 10 states have majorities that oppose allowing abortions. In some of these red states, such as Louisiana and Arkansas, bans on abortion may bring policy into line with the views of the majority of the public.
But this increase in congruence between policy and public preferences in red states will probably be outweighed by the decrease in congruence in states with pro-choice majorities. Our analysis of polling data suggests that more Americans will live under an abortion policy that is out of step with their preferences, with consequences for democratic representation. This is largely because clear majorities of citizens in purple states that are likely to ban abortion — like Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and even Iowa — support abortion rights, as our figure shows.
If reproductive rights follows the trend of previous controversial policies, it is likely that many purple states will eventually fall into step with the views of voters in their states and liberalize their abortion laws. So bans on abortion in these states might not survive in the long term.
The big question is whether majority opinion will shape policy in the shorter term. That partly depends on the quality of democratic institutions — the extent to which institutions allow people to elect legislators who reflect their policy preferences. In many of the purple states likely to ban abortion, gerrymandered legislative maps have bolstered Republicans’ state legislative majorities. For instance, Democrats won more than 50 percent of the statewide vote in Wisconsin and Michigan multiple times over the past decade but failed to win legislative majorities in even a single election. This gerrymandering means that state legislators in those states are largely insulated from a backlash to an abortion ban. [Continue reading…]