The Political Ramifications of Judicial Institutions: Establishing a Link between Dobbs and Gender Disparities in the 2022 Midterms
21 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2022
Date Written: November 17, 2022
In the American system of government, judicial institutions are designed to operate within the legal sphere, with limited interface with politics. Is it possible, though, that a behavior that is at the heart of the political process be influenced directly by a ruling of the Court?
In June 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. With the Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization decision, the Court annulled women’s constitutional right to abortion, on the books since 1973. Dobbs occurred less than six months before the Midterm Elections in November 2022.
We capitalize on voter registration bigdata for the universe of voters in North Carolina (NC) three months before and three months after the Court’s decision. NC is the only state whose voter registry has the necessary granularity over time, data availability, and scope of questions needed to assess the link with Dobbs. Furthermore, politically and demographically, NC is largely similar to the nation as a whole. Bigdata for >150K voters in NC indicate that the ruling mobilized women and created an uptick in voter registration gender gap, absent in previous midterms. This trend is evident at the level of individual registrants and aggregately at the county level.
Dobbs created a medical predicament for women as women, and thus their reaction in terms of political mobilization should have been unitary. However, those women who registered came from politically and sociologically well-defined constituencies. They were overwhelmingly Democrats, White non-Hispanic, in their 20s and born in the Northeastern United States.
Much of the credit for the absence of a Red Wave, predicted in the 2022 midterm elections, was given to the salience of abortion politics due to Dobbs (e.g., De Vise, 2022; Knoll and Smith 2022). However, this argument is based, at best, on exit polls and, at worst, on anecdotal conversations with voters. To overcome the myriad problems ranging from limited samples, non-response and response biases to the fact that polls may confound the ruling with various political variables, we offer a direct behavioral measure for women’s reaction to the ruling: voter registration. We causally link Dobbs to variance in gender gaps in voter registration based on original bigdata and identify the matrix of sociopolitical antecedents of this gap.
Keywords: Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization; Roe v. Wade; 2022 Midterm Elections; voter mobilization; voter registration; gender gaps; women and politics; politics of gender; abortion
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