Top Democratic digital strategists believe that abortion will continue to be a winning issue for their side and credit it with being the deciding factor in some crucial 2023 contests.
Part of that calculation stems from their belief that effective digital targeting can turnout voters sympathetic to their position on the issue — and recent election results buoy that hypothesis.
Going back to the 2022 midterms, some Republican consultants were sounding the alarm on polling showing that the abortion debate reignited by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case was decidedly against their side. What followed was a series of electoral defeats.
In August 2022, nearly 60 percent of voters in a Kansas referendum said they didn’t want to limit abortion access in the state. Then the 2022 midterms didn’t deliver the projected Republican wins many were expecting, particularly in key Senate races.
Still, that didn’t stop Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) from leaning into the issue during his state’s off-year contests, which resulted in full Democratic control of the state legislature. Meanwhile, polling in the Kentucky governor’s race shows that a powerful abortion-themed ad released by incumbent Gov. Andy Beshear (D) could have shifted that contest away from his Republican challenger, Attorney General Daniel Cameron. The Democratic governor won that contest earlier this by nearly five points.
“Republicans just haven’t figured out how to talk about it,” said Rising Tide Interactive’s Eli Kaplan, who noted that Republicans had lamented not putting enough money behind the abortion issue.
“I didn’t see a single piece of research in all the work that we did in Virginia that suggested that this 15-week ‘compromise’ was something that voters were interested in hearing. I think that election results are not surprising in that respect.”
DSPolitical’s Mark Jablonowski went a step further: “Abortion is the driving factor in all of these races,” he said. “It’s going to continue to be. We’ve developed some segmentation that we think is really, really powerful at reaching exactly the right voters, and it’s a large group of voters that really vote on this issue.”
He added: “It’s not going away.”
Moreover, Jablonowski said that digital publishers haven’t shied away from running abortion-related ads if the creative is right.
“You don’t have maybe as much of a block there when it comes to electoral ads as you might think,” he said. “But you do have the ability to be very efficient in the programmatic world by looking at the people who are most likely to be motivated by women’s-right-to-choose messaging and being able to target exactly those folks.
“At the end of the day, this is going to be one of the most influential factors in 2024 based on what we saw in 2023,” he said. “This is the most motivating issue for Democrats across the board.”