Impact of a Supreme Court Decision on the Preferences of Americans Regarding Abortion Policy

Academic Session

We examine the effect of a U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding abortion laws on Americans’ preferences for political candidates. The decision was leaked in advance of the official announcement, and we track the evolution of political preferences from before the leak to after the leak, and eventually after the formal announcement. The abortion issue was already very important to voters before the leak, but the Court’s decision did not simply make it more important for everyone. We find that the decision decreased the importance weight of abortion for Republicans while increasing it for independents/non-voters. Further, the decision increased Republican support for candidates who want to ban abortions, although this effect is diminished for candidates that oppose exceptions for rape, incest, or the mother’s health. Non-affiliated voters move sharply away from candidates who want to ban abortions without exceptions. The decision also resulted in a lasting polarization along gender lines whereby men became more likely to vote for a candidate that supports a ban on abortion, while women are less likely to support candidates that ban abortions.

Raphael Thomadsen & Song Yao, Washington University | Robert Zeithammer, UCLA