IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Poll shows why abortion remains tough issue for GOP

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley speaks on abortion at the Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America's offices in Arlington, Va., on April 25, 2023.
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley in Arlington, Va., on April 25.Stefani Reynolds / AFP - Getty Images

If it’s WEDNESDAY… President Biden holds joint press conference at 12:30 pm ET with South Korean President Yoon, and then hosts a state dinner for him in the evening… Biden airs first TV ad of re-election campaign, per NBC’s Mike Memoli… Donald Trump hits Ron DeSantis in another TV ad… Republican Asa Hutchinson formally announces presidential bid… And Chief Justice Roberts declines to testify at ethics hearing.

But FIRST... In her speech Tuesday, former United Nations ambassador and GOP presidential hopeful Nikki Haley tried to thread the needle on abortion, underscoring her credentials opposing the procedure — but also calling for consensus on the issue.

“Everyone goes to the barricades and attacks the other side. They’ve turned a sensitive issue that has long divided people into a kind of gotcha bidding war,” she said, per NBC’s Ali Vitali and Liz Brown-Kaiser. “How many weeks are you for? How many exceptions are you for? And the list goes on. But these questions miss the point if the goal is about saving as many lives as possible.”

But to many in the debate, the questions over weeks and exceptions is a foundational one. And the latest NBC News poll demonstrates why abortion remains a tough issue for Republicans.

Even for the ones calling for consensus.

Overall, a combined 58% of Americans say that abortion should be legal, either always (38%) or most of the time (20%).

That’s compared with 38% who believe it should be illegal with exceptions (32%) or without them (6%).

What’s more, the issue’s intensity is now on the Democrats' side: 43% of Americans in the NBC News poll say abortion is “extremely important” to them (a “10” on a 1-to-10 scale), and those people are disproportionately Democrats and women.

And finally, among those in the middle of the abortion debate — those who believe abortion should be legal most of the time, or those who think it should be illegal with exceptions — the poll finds near-universal support for exceptions to protect the mother’s life (95% of them support this), in the case of rape (92%) and in the case of incest (91%).

Bottom line: It’s hard for Republicans to find consensus on an issue when they are trying to satisfy the 35% to 40% of Americans who believe abortion should be illegal.

Versus the nearly 60% who think it should be legal.

Headline of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 22%

That’s the share of independents who view President Biden in a positive light, according to the new national NBC News poll. Just 8% of independents view Biden in a “very positive” light, while 14% have a “somewhat positive” opinion of him.

Biden fares about the same as former President Donald Trump, with 23% of independents viewing him in a positive light. Six percent of independents say they view him in a “very positive” light, while 15% have a “somewhat positive” view of him.

Among Democrats, 78% have a positive view of Biden, while just 4% of Republicans view him positively.

And among Republicans, 69% view Trump positively, while 4% of Democrats say the same.

*** Other numbers to know

$384 billion: The amount of money in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act that was allocated for “energy security,” and that Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is threatening to repeal because he says the White House has “disregarded” its agreement with him on including spending on fossil fuels. 

At least 8: The number of Democratic governors who joined President Biden for a call about messaging strategy in battleground states, including Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro, North Carolina’s Roy Cooper and New Mexico’s Michelle Lujan Grisham, NBC News’ Monica Alba reports.

13: The age of a boy who was groomed online and later abducted, leading his parents to partially blame Twitter for allowing a predator’s account to stay up and for not cooperating with police quickly, NBC News’ Ben Goggin reports.

41%: The portion of male college athletes who said they had been told of a sexual assault or domestic violence incident but weren’t sure where to report it, ESPN reports.

75%: The increase in the number of attempts to ban books in schools and libraries from 2021 to 2022, according to the American Library Association. 

96: The age of Harry Belafonte, a renowned singer and civil rights activist, who died on Tuesday.

Eyes on 2024: The cable wars have begun

With President Joe Biden officially in the race, neither Biden nor GOP frontrunner and former President Donald Trump are wasting any time getting up on the airwaves.

NBC News’ Mike Memoli reports that Biden and the Democratic National Committee are up with their first TV ad, a 90-second spot that doubles down on Biden’s opening message that freedoms are under attack. 

The campaign said the ad is part of a seven-figure campaign that will run on national cable channels and in six battleground states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. So far Biden and the DNC have reserved $256,000 on the airwaves through May 2, per AdImpact. 

And Trump’s campaign booked its first TV ad spending on CNN, MSNBC and Newsmax, spending about $77,000 so far from Wednesday through Friday, per AdImpact. The minute-long spot goes after Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, who isn’t even in the race yet, focusing on Trump endorsing DeSantis when he ran for governor in 2018.   

“DeSantis was saved by the endorsement of President Trump,” a narrator says in the ad, later adding: “Unfortunately, instead of being grateful, DeSantis is now attacking the very man who saved his career. Isn’t it time DeSantis remembers how he got to where he is?”

The ad closes with the narrator saying, “The truth is there’s only one person who can make America great again.” 

In other campaign news…

A labor of love: Biden spoke to the North American Building Trades Union shortly after announcing his bid on Tuesday, touting an economic message that he didn’t emphasize in his announcement video. 

Shoring up the left: Ahead of Biden’s re-election launch, top Biden advisers have been reaching out to progressive leaders to shore up their support, NBC News’ Sahil Kapur, Ryan Nobles and Mike Memoli report. On Tuesday, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed Biden in an interview with the Associated Press where he said he would “do everything I can to see the president is reelected.”

The rematch no one wants: NBC News’ Jonathan Allen emphasizes a key finding from the latest NBC News poll — just about the only thing a clear majority of Americans agrees on these days is that they don’t want Biden or Trump to run again in 2024

Trump’s target: Trump’s campaign promises to overhaul the civil service is causing some “anxiety” among government workers, NBC News’ Allan Smith reports.

On the web: Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC, is launching a “six-figure” digital ad campaign on Wednesday, Politico reports. The group is also aiming to spend $75 million in the 2024 election cycle. 

Clean up on Aisle 1600: After dodging a question about whether Biden would serve out his full second term if elected, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tweeted, “I can confirm that if re-elected, @POTUS would serve all 8 years,” blaming the hesitation on concerns about talking politics from the Briefing Room. 

Debatable: Trump mused about skipping the GOP presidential debates in a Tuesday post on his social media platform where he laments that the Republican Party didn’t seek his “approval” before agreeing to hold debates, and questioned why he would “subject yourself to being libeled and abused” if he’s the clear frontrunner. 

No longer resigned to resigning? A Florida lawmaker has filed a new amendment that would ease the state’s “resign-to-run” law to allow DeSantis to run for president and not resign from office first. 

Making it official: Former Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson is formally announcing his presidential bid Wednesday morning in Bentonville, Ark. 

When the PACs come marching in: The Club for Growth PAC is endorsing Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry’s bid for governor in Louisiana. 

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

Three U.S. officials confirmed to NBC News’ Courtney Kube that the mastermind of the 2021 Kabul airport bombing that killed 13 U.S. service members and more than 150 Afghans has been killed by the Taliban

The Senate is slated to vote to help states trying to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which would ban sex discrimination. 

The head of U.S. Cyber Command’s Cyber National Mission Force said that Iran-linked hackers broke into an American city’s website in 2020 potentially trying to alter unofficial vote counts.