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With Roe precedent in jeopardy, most don't recognize the threat

A new poll shows nearly two-thirds of Americans either don't realize Roe may be overturned or are working from the assumption that it won't happen.


For those who keep up on current events, it's obvious that reproductive rights in the United States are facing the prospect of a dramatic change. The Supreme Court's dominant conservative majority recently left little doubt that the Roe v. Wade precedent is in jeopardy, and policymakers are already preparing for what happens if/when the justices roll back the clock.

But let's not forget an important detail: Most Americans don't keep up on current events.

With this in mind, consider the findings from the latest Politico/Morning Consult poll:

The poll of 2,000 registered voters found that many are uninformed or misinformed about the arguments the Supreme Court heard last week on Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban.... The poll found 44 percent of those surveyed said they had heard "not much" or "nothing at all" about the case, while nearly two-thirds either said they didn't know how likely the court was to overturn Roe or said the court isn't likely to overturn the precedent.

Politico's report added that a majority of survey respondents said they support abortion rights and oppose the restrictions on reproductive rights many Americans are likely to see in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling. This is consistent not only with other recent polling, but also with public-opinion research over the last few decades.

In other words, a majority of Americans have a clear preference: Most of the country wants to see the Supreme Court rule against the Mississippi law in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, and would prefer to see the status quo remain intact.

But that's what makes the rest of the results so notable: Roe v. Wade is likely to be overturned in the coming months. Republican policymakers in many states will begin imposing sweeping abortion bans. There is a very real possibility that the reproductive rights policy landscape in the United States will change dramatically.

And nearly two-thirds of Americans either don't realize this or are working from the assumption that it won't happen.

As we recently discussed, the electoral implications: What will happen if millions of voters who assumed abortion rights are safe discover otherwise in an election year?

Republicans clearly have reason to be optimistic about the 2022 midterm elections, thanks in part to a highly motivated GOP base. But when making predictions about the next election cycle, it's worth remembering that between now and next November, a group of conservative justices may take a sledgehammer to a popular legal precedent protecting reproductive rights.

Anyone who assumes to know how the electorate will respond to such a shock is kidding themselves.