NO, ABORTION WON'T RESCUE DEMS IN NOVEMBER. There's a lot of speculation that a Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, if that indeed happens, would be a boost for Democrats in this November's midterm elections. There seems no doubt the decision will motivate some part of the Democratic base. But the question is: Who? How many? And how important would they be to the election results?
Polling shows that abortion is not at the highest level of voter concerns, even after the unprecedented leak of a draft decision that would end Roe. Politico conducted a rush poll after the leak, and it did not find an electorate obsessed with abortion.
The question Politico asked was: "Thinking about your vote, what would you say is the top set of issues on your mind when you cast your vote for federal offices such as U.S. Senate or Congress?" The pollsters gave respondents seven choices: 1) economic issues, such as taxes, wages, and jobs; 2) security issues, such as terrorism, foreign policy, and the border; 3) healthcare issues, such as Obamacare and Medicaid; 4) seniors issues, such as Medicare and Social Security; 5) women's issues, such as birth control, abortion, and equal pay; 6) education issues, such as school standards, class sizes, and school choice; and 7) energy issues, such as carbon emissions, renewables, and the cost of electricity and gasoline.
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Women's issues, including abortion, ranked fifth out of seven. The most important, of course, was economic issues, named by 41% of registered voters. Next was security issues, with 16%. Then came seniors issues, with 10%, and healthcare issues, with 9%. And then came women's issues, including abortion, at 8%.
There was a gender gap, of course. Just 4% of men named women's issues as most important, while 11% of women did — but remember, as far as abortion is concerned, that might include pro-lifers as well as pro-choicers. Among Democratic women, all pro-choice, the number rose to 18%, or nearly one in five. So perhaps a bit less than one-fifth of the female half of the Democratic electorate might be especially motivated by abortion rights come November.
On the other hand, look at the dominance of economic issues. When 41% of voters, given multiple choices, choose one area as most important, that says it is really, really important. And the poll did not even mention the word "inflation," which likely would have sent the number even higher. Nevertheless, voters named the economy their top concern by a broad margin. Abortion just isn't anywhere near that.
It never has been, and it will most definitely not be this year. Everyone knows how bad inflation is. The Federal Reserve has not raised interest rates by a half-point since 2000, and yet that is what it did yesterday in a belated effort to fight back inflation, now running at an 8.5% annual rate. "Inflation is much too high," Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said, as if anyone needed reminding. "And we understand the hardship it is causing, and we're moving expeditiously to bring it back down."
You know price increases in food, gasoline, clothing — everything — are becoming increasingly burdensome. But right now, take a look at what it takes to buy a house. In March 2021, the median price of an existing house nationwide was $326,300, according to figures compiled by Freddie Mac and reported in the New York Times. Today, just one year later, that price has risen to $375,000.
That's just the purchase price of the house. The price of financing the house has gone up significantly, too. The buyer of that median-priced house, if he put down 10% and financed the rest with a 30-year mortgage, would have to pay a 5.10% interest rate, as opposed to a 2.98% rate a year ago, according to the New York Times. That would mean the typical monthly mortgage payment, which was $1,235 a year ago, is now $1,834. That is nearly a 50% increase.
To take a more specific example, the Houston Association of Realtors recently released a report saying that less than half of the households in Houston, 47%, earned enough to purchase a median-priced home, which in the area costs $330,800. This time last year, 58% of the households in Houston earned enough to buy a median-priced home. "The median price of a single-family home in Houston has increased nearly $80,000 in the last two years, and this makes it difficult for families to afford to buy a home," said Patrick Jankowski of the Greater Houston Partnership. "As home prices and interest rates continue to increase, we could see more people stay in rentals or multifamily units because they cannot afford to move, and some people are going to have to accept less house than they originally wanted to buy."
By the way, rents are up, too — 17% nationally in the last year. So if you are a renter hoping to buy, it will cost you more to stay, and it will cost you more to go.
So with all that happening — the price of gasoline up 48% on an annual basis, used cars and trucks up 35.3%, new cars up 12.5%, meat, fish, poultry, and eggs up 13.7%, plus the cost of housing rising farther and farther out of reach — with all that going on, plus a Democratic president with a job approval rating mired in the low 40% range, does anyone really think the Supreme Court's Roe decision will make the difference in this year's midterm elections? Of course, something entirely unforeseen could occur and consume our politics. But right now, bet on the economy to be the decisive factor in November.
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