On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization legal case effectively reversed Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992). The decision to overturn the two landmark cases – which had established and affirmed a constitutional right to an abortion, respectively – now leaves it up to each state to regulate abortion access with the ability to go as far as banning it entirely.

As states react to the ruling – some with increased restrictions on abortion access and others with expansions to access – so does the corporate sector.

Companies Must Take a Stance

The issue of abortion rights is a divisive topic that many companies may prefer to leave to the public sector. But research shows that Americans want companies and their executives to take a stance on political issues, and the abortion debate is no exception.

The stakes are high, too. Not only will corporate responses have implications for companies’ reputations, but they will also impact employer brand as more employees, particularly Gen Z workers, will turn to employers for additional benefits to compensate for restrictive social policies.

Developing an Abortion Rights Communications Strategy

This means that your communications approach to abortion rights will likely become a significant factor in shaping your reputation going forward. And, while your company’s executives or board members may determine its position on abortion rights, the delivery is up to you.

So, how do you develop messaging on a sensitive social topic like abortion rights in a way that resonates with your audience?

How Social Media Analytics Can Illuminate the Conversation

While opinion polls are an excellent resource for gauging public sentiment on social topics like abortion, they often don’t capture the nuances of the broader discussions that can guide your messaging.

That’s where social media comes in.

Because social media platforms host a significant portion of the ongoing public discourse surrounding abortion rights, it contains a depth of data that goes far beyond the polls. Not only can social media analytics identify what people care about most at any given moment, but it can also uncover the subtleties of the discussion, highlighting how you can frame your messaging to cut through the noise.  

At PublicRelay, we used social media sampling to analyze a random sample of 2,143 tweets (from a total of nearly 70k) from June 20 to July 3, 2022, containing keywords related to abortion and the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.*

With this method, we tracked the Twitter conversation around abortion rights to gain an insight into audience perspectives and the messages that resonate.

Here’s what we found:

The Abortion Rights Twitter Conversation Reflects National Public Opinion

The abortion rights conversation exploded on Twitter immediately following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and it’s a discussion that’s likely to continue.

Our Twitter sampling results closely align with the results of a May 2022 Gallop poll, with 57% of tweets opposed to overturning Roe and 37% in favor of the Court’s ruling.

Interestingly, pro-abortion rights messages have an outsized social reach. Tweets against overturning Roe reached an audience 5x the size of those in favor of overturning Roe. In other words, anti-abortion rights tweets have a much smaller following than pro-abortion rights messages.

How Abortion Fits into Healthcare is a Leading Message

On both sides of the debate, messages about whether abortion constitutes healthcare captivate a significant share of the Twitter audience.

social media analytics

The “abortion is not healthcare” message accounts for nearly a quarter of the anti-abortion rights Twitter audience. Meanwhile, “abortion is healthcare” is the second leading pro-abortion rights message – behind “overturning Roe restricts bodily autonomy” – and received significant Twitter audience reach.

The Focus on Company Actions is Likely to Grow

In the immediate aftermath of the ruling, most of the Twitter conversation focuses on the overturning of Roe itself. Though companies’ responses to the decision appear in only 2% of tweets, that is likely to change as more state laws take effect and corporate responses materialize. Ultimately, the public expects companies to react, and we anticipate the Twitter conversation to reflect that.

So far, company actions mentioned in abortion tweets include travel support for abortion care, data privacy related to abortion services, corporate support of politicians on either side of the abortion rights debate, and company statements.

Using Social Media Analytics to Improve Communications

Let’s examine how social media sampling insights can fill the gaps when refining your abortion rights messaging.

For instance, Morning Consult polling data indicates that U.S. consumers want brands to support abortion access. Its July 2022 survey results found that most respondents “favored companies’ declaring a pro-choice position: Nearly half (49%) said they support when companies make a statement in opposition to the decision, compared with 29% in support of a statement that endorses the ruling.”

This information may help a brand decide to vocalize its pro-abortion rights stance. But what’s the best way to do it?

Consider our finding that “abortion is healthcare” messages resonate with the pro-abortion rights Twitter audience, paired with evidence that more workers expect employers to offer health insurance covering contraception and family planning services. Messaging that highlights how the company intends to include support for abortion access as a part of its employee healthcare benefits will align with a prominent thread of the abortion rights conversation while bolstering the company’s employer brand.

Building a Strategy for Sensitive Social Topics

Companies will face increasing pressure to respond to the overturning of Roe v. Wade and other sensitive social issues. And, because of its implications for reputation, communications around these topics are best not left to trial-and-error.

As a communicator, you can build a strategy that uses data to direct your messaging and navigate even the most heated social topics.

At PublicRelay, we use human-augmented technology to analyze conversations surrounding broad social topics for concepts, sentiment, and trends to shed light on the complex social issues that impact your brand. Click here to learn more!

*The number of sampled tweets was stratified to be proportional to the raw volume of tweets each day, and retweets were excluded from the sample. The analyzed sample is representative of the overall Twitter conversation related to abortion and Roe during the two-week period with 95% confidence, given a 2% margin of error. Learn more about how we use social media sampling to extract statistically significant insights from Twitter data.

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