May 6, 2022 - Podcasts

How do Americans really feel about abortion?

That’s a question we’ve wanted to answer since the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion on Roe v. Wade. We look into the data on U.S. opinions about abortion rights.

  • Plus, COVID has changed how we design our homes

Guests: Gallup's Director of U.S. Social Research Lydia Saad, Axios' Margaret Talev and Jennifer Kingson.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! 

It’s Friday, May 6th. 

I’m Niala Boodhoo. 

Here’s what we’re following today: COVID has changed how we design our homes  – just like the 1918 pandemic did.

But first, today’s one big thing: how do Americans really feel about abortion?

NIALA: That's a question we've wanted to answer since the leak of the Supreme court's draft opinion on Roe V. Wade. So what does the data actually tell us about the opinions of Americans on Roe and on abortion rights?

LYDIA SAAD: Public opinion has been very clear in that it's very complex. 

That's Lydia Saad, Director of US Social Research for Gallup. 

LYDIA: You have to look at probably 50 different questions to get a good synthesis of what Americans really are saying on abortion. Most recently we found 58% opposed to overturning the decision. And that's largely consistent with the range of support we've seen on that all the way back to 1989. So broad support for Roe V. Wade, but also very broad support for restricting abortion in the second and third trimesters where the, real friction comes into play is in the first trimester. 

NIALA: With those topline findings in mind, let's dig in with Margaret Talex, Axios’ managing editor for politics, who's worked with lots of polling on this issue. Hi Margaret.

MARGARET: Good morning Niala.

NIALA: Margaret in the last few days, especially, I've been hearing a lot about how hard it is to pull accurately around abortion. We just heard that from Gallup. Let's start there. Why is this so hard?

MARGARET: We know that most Americans, a majority of Americans favor having abortion as a right, as a choice for women. And we see new polling, out this week from Reuters and Ipsos, that shows that about two thirds of Americans, 63% of Americans, say that they would be likely to back a candidate who wants to pass a law that would protect all Americans, right to an abortion if that Roe decision is struck down, as we now expect it to be. So why is it so hard to understand? It's hard to understand for two reasons. One is that polling is only as good as the questions and people's willingness to answer them on an issue like abortion um, people's emotions can run high the questions can be confusing or misleading. That's part of the reason. The other reason is because this is all been mostly hypothetical until now. Yes, states have been restricting abortion rights, red states over time. But as long as Roe vs Wade was the law of the land,

and that's been the case for now a half a century. So think about that. Anyone who's 50 or younger has never known a time when abortion wasn't a federally protected right. So this is all been hypothetical. How will people answer a poll question when it's hypothetical might be very different than how would they would answer a question if it were suddenly real and it is about to get real.

NIALA: Certainly everyone's aware of how charged this issue is. And you could say politically charged would be not inaccurate. But what do we know about motivations, how much this issue actually causes people to vote for candidates?

MARGARET: Democrat at this moment believe it gives them the advantage because when you are looking at the democratic base, they are upset with Biden and with leaders in their own party over inflation, over crime. But now finally, here's an issue that polls tell us base democratic voters care about protecting a woman's right to choose, whether or not to have an abortion. So if Democrats can galvanize that to turn voters out to the polls, it could both potentially offset or reverse some of their problems in the midterms and help them to try to protect the majority they would need if they wanted to pass any abortion rights laws in Congress. But, we know that the democratic base voters who have felt the most passionately about protecting abortion rights have been liberal college educated women and Black women. Those also happen to be two of the blocks of voters who traditionally already were the most likely to turn out and vote for Democrats in midterm elections. Some of the other groups of voters that Democrats really have been struggling to excite and galvanize this year are young people. Young people are strongly motivated by this polling tells us, but will it be enough to turn out to vote? Republicans in their early messaging have been talking much more about the leak and trying to create, a kind of language structure to talk about this debate in which they're saying Democrats are the radical ones where the sensible ones.

NIALA: Okay. Margaret so we have polling about the past. What do you want to know now about what Americans are thinking about the future?

MARGARET: I do think as this moves from the hypothetical to the actual, we're going to see a tsunami of additional polling focus group and political conversations, message testing around this. But I do think one thing is certain. A month ago, a week ago, we thought that the defining issues in the 2022 election were going to be inflation, crime,

Immigration and COVID malaise and maybe a little bit to do with Russia and the war in Ukraine. This changes everything. A huge, huge, huge part of the political conversation. now this year is going to be about this one defining issue and whether it alone is enough to turn people out to the polls who didn't care before and to change the course of the 2022 midterm elections.

NIALA: Axios’ managing editor for politics, Margaret Talev. Thanks Margaret.

MARGARET: Thanks Niala.

In a moment, we’re back with how the pandemic is permanently changing home building. 

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. History has shown us how pandemics can influence literally how our homes are built. Like the fact that all American bathrooms used to be carpeted. Axios chief correspondent Jennifer Kingson has a story of how COVID-19 is now changing home design. Hi Jennifer.

JENNIFER KINGSON: Hey, Niala. It's so funny you mentioned the bathrooms. I can't imagine them with anything other than tile.

NIALA: Right. So before we get into how home design is being affected by this current pandemic, how did we end up with tiled bathrooms because of the last pandemic?

JENNIFER: It's so funny that these changes in home design go back to the last pandemic of 1918. Back then, the innovation was that people started to build “powder rooms,” where you walked into somebody's house and you immediately wanted to wash your hands and get the outside off of you. And, it was discovered then they began to learn more about germs. Powder rooms would have tile floors and, uh, no draperies on the, on the windows, because those were thought to be able to harbor everything we wanted to keep out. And that's been a lasting innovation in home design.

NIALA: What are the main things people are looking for now in their homes after living through more than two years of this pandemic?

JENNIFER: People want larger homes with more rooms that they can specialize. They still want the open plan living area that was so popular before the pandemic, that hasn't changed. We still want a place where we can all hang out together. But now, we want our own rooms where we can go work, study, play, be by ourselves. One of the big, uh, watchwords here is flexibility. The rooms need to be flexible because, whereas you used to spend evenings in your bedroom, you may be spending a good part of your day there. You may be exercising in your bedroom or working there or studying as well as sleeping and watching TV. Uh, there needs to be the ability to have different kinds of lighting, daytime, nighttime, and a lot more ventilation as well, because of what we know about the virus.

NIALA: Jennifer, we're also in this era where people are going back to the office. Many people are. Why do people want these changes to be permanent then?

JENNIFER: It's a good question because, as we know, hybrid work seems to have taken hold much more than anybody might have supposed. And so it's assumed for the foreseeable future, we're going to want to work at home, even if we do go into the office now and then. We're not going back to the old days where there's such a big, bright line between our home life and our work or school life. So given the fact that these changes are effectively permanent, we want our homes to reflect that flexibility.

NIALA: Axios’ chief correspondent, Jennifer Kingson. Thanks, jennifer.

JENNIFER: Thanks Niala, great to talk.

And that’s all for us – 

Axios Today this week was produced by Nuria Marquez Martinez and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our sound engineer is Alex Sugiura. Alexandra Botti is our Senior Producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ Editor In Chief. And special thanks as always to Axios co-founder Mike Allen.   

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here on Monday.

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