The strongly divided reactions to the overturning of Roe vs. Wade are continuing to drive both protest and praise at levels political experts say is likely to generate greater voter attention on state and local races.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision puts abortion policy in the hands of state lawmakers, whose races for legislative seats traditionally receive less attention from voters than federal offices such as U.S. Congress or the White House.
But political scientists at Washington State University say general voter awareness of state legislative races now could push public interest into uncharted territory.
“In the past, you didn’t really see campaigns for state legislatures or governors discussing the abortion question very often, but you are likely to see a lot more of that now,” said Cornell Clayton, director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service at WSU. “In fact, I would expect to see it become a central issue in almost every midterm campaign because now states are going to be setting policies on abortion and it will matter very much who your governor is and who the members of your state legislature are.”
Clayton, a frequent political commentator whose work on judicial politics has twice received the American Judicature Award from the American Political Science Association, said the issue of abortion has moved front and center in political campaigns here in the Pacific Northwest.
Michael Salamone, political science professor at WSU, recently explained in an article written by the Associated Press that public support for the Supreme Court’s decisions can easily fluctuate on a case-by-case basis. But overall faith in the court’s central role in American democracy has tended to be historically resilient. Whether that support will suffer because of the Roe decision as well as other recent rulings remains to be seen.
“Just based on the amount of rhetoric and the high-profile nature of so many of these decisions, I’m wondering if we’ve perhaps reached our limit to that resilience,” Salamone told The Associated Press.