Health

COVID-19 Still Grabbed Headlines in 2022. But No Health Story Broke Through to Voters More Than Roe v. Wade

71% of voters said they had seen, read or heard “a lot” about the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark abortion ruling

Graphic conveying the overturning of Roe v. Wade
(Getty Images / Morning Consult artwork by Kelly Rice)

This article is part of our annual Seen Read Heard project measuring real-time media consumption of over 800 news events among more than 200,000 Americans. See our interactive for a curated list of the newsworthy developments of 2022, including many that resonated deeply with Americans — and some that didn’t.

Read More Seen Read Heard Coverage: Series Home Page | Analyzing The News That Broke Through 2022 | Global: Ukraine War Dominates 2022’s Global Headlines | Economics: Inflation News | Energy: Hurricanes and Gasoline Prices

COVID-19 still captured plenty of health care headlines in 2022, but the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and the U.S. baby formula shortage broke through to voters in an even bigger way, according to an analysis of weekly Morning Consult surveys that asked the electorate how much they’d seen, read or heard about specific news items.

Coronavirus stories made up the majority of health care news overall — accounting for 34 of the 64 health news events surveyed — but other items, including the fallout from the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling, the Inflation Reduction Act and the mpox public health emergency, also grabbed voters’ attention.

Roe v. Wade, Baby Formula Shortage Topped Health Care Headlines

The share of voters who heard “a lot” about the following health care news items:

Surveys conducted on a weekly basis throughout 2022 among a representative sample of roughly 2,000 registered voters each, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

COVID-19 news gave way to other health topics

  • The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was the most seen story among all voters, with roughly 7 in 10 saying they heard “a lot” about the ruling. Next on the list was the U.S. baby formula shortage, which 3 in 5 voters said they heard “a lot” about it.
  • Pandemic news made up the entire list of top 15 news events in 2021, but COVID-19 accounted for just six headlines in the top 15 this year. President Joe Biden’s positive COVID-19 test was the pandemic story that broke through the most.
Democrats Were More Likely Than GOP Voters to Hear About Abortion News

The shares of Republican and Democratic voters who heard “a lot” about the following abortion news:

Surveys conducted on a weekly basis throughout 2022 among a representative sample of roughly 2,000 registered voters each, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

Abortion news and a partisan divide in consumption

  • Abortion stories were the second most-seen health care topic this year (17 out of 64 health news stories), as states implemented stricter laws following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Voters heard about the release of the Dobbs ruling more than any other abortion story, followed by the leak of the court’s draft decision several weeks prior.
  • Some of the year’s largest partisan divides over news coverage were about abortion, with Democrats more likely to have seen, read or heard “a lot” about every abortion story than Republicans. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) proposed 15-week federal abortion ban had the largest gap of the group: 35% of Democrats said they heard “a lot” about the story, compared with 16% of GOP voters.

COVID-19, abortion stories could be here to stay in 2023

Voters heard about pandemic-related news throughout the year, but most of those top stories were from the beginning of the year, when the country reported a record number of COVID-19 cases from the omicron variant. The lesser-seen pandemic stories came later in the year, as cases dropped and state and federal governments rolled back public health measures, like masking and proof of vaccination requirements.

With the pandemic heading into its fourth year, fatigue may be dragging on voters’ interest to follow coverage as closely as in previous years. Interest in COVID-19 news may return, however, as cases are once again rising before the holidays.

Abortion will likely stay a top news story for voters in 2023, as states implement stricter laws or work to protect access. The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision was the story of the year, but voters consistently saw coverage of the ripple effects as well.

Surveys conducted on a weekly basis throughout 2022 among a representative sample of roughly 2,000 registered voters each, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.