by Catherine Smart, Research Analyst
In the weeks leading up to Election Day 2022, there were plenty of reasons to expect a “Red Wave”, a large takeover by the Republican party. Historically, most midterms following the election of a new president see a large swing towards the opposite party in the House and Senate. With history as well as rampant inflation and President Biden’s low approval rating on their side, right-leaning pundits had plenty of ammunition. While several GOP candidates did close on their Democratic opponents in the polling the week prior to election day, the red wave predicted by pundits did not emerge, but the tightly contested races depicted by polling did.
Why didn’t the red wave fully materialize? It appears that inflation and economic concerns were not enough to fully overshadow the controversial overturning of Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs v. Jackson case this past summer. In October of 2022, the Kaiser Family conducted a survey and reported that more than half of the respondents felt it important to vote in this year’s elections because of abortion concerns, including 60% of women. Exit polls also showed that 33% of women marked abortion as their most important issue, ahead of 28% who marked inflation.
In several swing states, abortion edges inflation as the most important issue to female voters. In exit polls from Pennsylvania, 46% of women listed abortion as their most important issue and 65% expressed they felt dissatisfied or angry about the Dobbs v. Jackson decision. This was reflective in the Pennsylvania Senate race – 57% of women voted for Democrat John Fetterman, including 64% of Independent women helping him defeat Mehmet Oz by 4.5 points.
The GOP has slowly been siphoning off voters from the Latino electorate and many predicted a Red Wave in that direction in 2022. Similar to the overall vote, a red shift did happen but to a smaller degree than expected. 63% of Latinos reported they voted for a Democratic House candidate in 2020, compared to 60% who voted Democrat in 2022. This 3 point shift to the right is consistent with previous midterms following the election of a first-term president.
The gender gap among Latinos however broadened to 13%, with 66% of Latinas voting Democrat compared to 53% of Latino men. In 2020, there was virtually no gender gap – 63% of Latinas and 62% of Latino men voted Democrat. When asked how they felt about Roe v. Wade being overturned, 67% of Latinos responded as either “dissatisfied” or “angry”. 28% of Latinos list abortion as most important issue to their vote, ahead of 25% who list inflation. The Dobbs v. Jackson decision appears to have had a negative impact in the Latino community and contributed to smaller GOP gains, and even losses among Latinas.
The Dobbs v. Jackson decision allowed each state to evaluate where they come down on the issue of abortion, with referendums on the ballot in many states this past general election, including Montana, Kentucky, Michigan, California, and Vermont, catapulting it into the national conversation. While certainly not the only factor in reining in Republican momentum in the 2022 midterms, the results of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision strongly impacted female voting, especially among Independents and Latino women. In order to continue to make inroads with these voting blocs, Republicans will need to engage in reflection and dialogue on this issue. Now that abortion rights can be legislated on, this subject will not go away and avoiding the topic will not be enough. Working to determine what can be effectively legislated and crafting better messaging explaining the hows and whys of their positions will be key going forward to Republican candidates seeking the votes of Independent women and Latinos.