Key Findings

While some competitive races and control of the U.S. Senate are still to be determined, voting in the 2022 midterm elections is over. Voters weighed a variety of different factors including former President Trump’s endorsement of candidates, the candidates’ characteristics, as well as the issues facing the country. While inflation was clearly at the top of voters’ minds as they cast their ballots in this midterm election, the issue of abortion played a role in many ways. Four states had ballot initiatives that all went in the direction of supporting abortion rights, and many voters, including in key voting blocs and in some highly competitive races, said they were motivated to turn out by the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. This analysis focuses on the KFF/AP supplemental questions on AP VoteCast of midterm voters to further examine the role that the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade played in the 2022 midterm election.

  • In a midterm election where issues largely centered on inflation and rising prices, about a quarter of voters said the Court’s decision was the single most important factor in their midterm vote. This share increases to more than three in ten among some groups that tend to be pro-choice, including Democratic voters, younger women voters, first time voters, and those who say they are angry about the Court’s decision. These groups are more likely to say the Court’s decision had a “major impact” on their voting decisions – both to turn out and which candidates to support. Majorities of Black and Hispanic women also report the Supreme Court decision impacted their voting behavior, and older women of color were more likely than older White women to report this.
  • Voters who said the Supreme Court overturning Roe was the single most important factor in their vote went more than 2:1 for Democratic candidates. Democratic candidates also had advantage of voters who were angry in the wake of the Dobbs Among the one-third of voters who said they were angry about the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, eight in ten cast ballots for Democratic House candidates.
  • There were several states with competitive races where the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe may have played a role in motivating voters both to turn out and to vote for candidates who share their opinion on abortion access. For example, in Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe was the most important factor in the vote of about one in ten Republican voters, and 21% of these Republican voters cast ballots for the Senate Democratic candidate. A small share overall, but it was an election where small margins mattered. A majority of key voting groups in the state, including younger voters, women voters 18-49, and voters who supported the Democratic candidates, also said the Court’s decision had a “major impact” on their decision to vote and who they supported.
  • In all four states where voters were asked to vote directly on state initiatives regarding abortion access, about four in ten say the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe had a “major impact” on their decision to turn out to vote. The Court’s decision was an even stronger turnout motivation for women 18-49 years old, the group most directly impacted by the state ballot initiatives. Large shares women voters under 50 in each of the four states said the Supreme Court overturning Roe had a “major impact” on whether they voted in the 2022 midterm election including more than half of women voters under the age of 50 in California (55%), Michigan (55%), Vermont (51%) and nearly half (45%) of Kentucky women voters under 50.

Democrats More Motivated By Supreme Court Decision

The 2022 midterm election was widely expected to hinge on economic issues, and results of AP VoteCast bear that out: half of voters said inflation increasing prices for gas, groceries, and other goods was the “single most important factor” when thinking about voting in the 2022 midterm election. However, in an election where Democrats outperformed expectations, survey findings also indicate that the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade was a motivating factor for many voters. Seven in ten said the Court’s decision was an important factor in their vote, including one quarter who said it was the single most important factor. Voters chose other factors, too, including 44% who said the future of democracy was the single most important factor in their vote and 25% who said the same about rising violent crime rates.

The overturning of Roe ranked even higher as a voting issue among some key voting blocs. Almost four in ten first-time voters (38%) and voters who identify as Democrats (37%), as well about a third of all voters under age 30 (34%) and women voters under age 50 (34%) said the Court’s decision was the “single most important factor” in their vote choice. These groups, voters who largely disapproved of the Dobbs decision that ultimately overturned the precedent set by the Court’s decision on Roe, may have contributed to a stronger showing among Democratic candidates, especially in places where the contests were decided by marginal shifts in turnout. Early estimates suggest that overall youth voter turnout was among the highest in three decades.

To provide a deeper look at the role of abortion in motivating both turnout and vote choice, KFF added supplemental questions to AP VoteCast. Four in ten voters overall say the Supreme Court overturning Roe had a “major impact” on their decision about whether to vote in this election, rising to more than half of those who voted for a Democratic candidate for Congress (56%). The share of voters who say the Court’s decision was a major factor in their turnout was also higher among first time voters (54%), voters under age 30 (52%), women voters under age 50 (51%), and those who said they were angry about the Supreme Court decision (63%).

Half of all voters say the Court’s decision had a “major impact” on which candidates they supported in this election, including nearly two-thirds (64%) of those who voted for Democratic House candidates.

More than half of Black and Hispanic women ages 50 and older said the Supreme Court decision had a “major impact” on their decision to vote and which candidates to support, compared to smaller shares of older white women voters. Among women voters under 50, the racial differences are smaller but Black and Hispanic women are still slightly more likely to say the Dobbs decision had a “major impact” on their voting decisions.

Democratic candidates overwhelmingly supported by Voters For Whom Abortion Was Most Important Voting Factor

Democratic candidates garnered large support among the quarter of voters who said the Court’s decision on abortion was the single most important factor in their vote with seven in ten of these voters casting ballots for the Democratic candidates for the U.S. House, compared to a quarter who voted for the Republican candidates. On the other hand, Republican candidates fared better – but to a lesser degree – among voters who said inflation was their single most important issue.

Democratic candidates also had the advantage among voters who were angry in the wake of the Dobbs decision. Among the one-third of voters who said they were “angry” about the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, eight in ten cast ballots for Democratic House candidates. Neither party’s candidates had an advantage among the quarter of voters who said they were “dissatisfied by the Court’s decision but not angry,” while Republican candidates garnerd more support among voters who said they were either happy about the Court’s decision or “satisfied, but not happy.”

The Role of Supreme Court Decision in Competitive States

There were several states with competitive races where the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe may have played a role in motivating voters to both turnout and to vote for candidates who share their opinion on abortion access. Nationally, 13% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said the Supreme Court decision was the most important factor in their vote, and relatively few of this group (9%) ended up casting ballots for Democratic candidates. But in certain states with competitive races, like Pennsylvania and Arizona, one in five of these Roe-focused Republican voters voted for the Democratic Senate candidate. Though small as a share of total voters, these kinds of crossover votes may have mattered in these close races.

In addition to motivating some Republican voters to vote for Democratic candidates, the Supreme Court Dobbs decision may have influenced turnout. In key competitive states including Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, and Wisconsin, more than one-third of voters said the Supreme Court overturning Roe had a “major impact” on their decision about whether to vote in this election and at least four in ten said it had a “major impact” on which candidates they supported.

While many competitive races have yet to be called, the Democratic candidates have garnered enough votes to win the Senate and gubernatorial election in Pennsylvania. While the gubernatorial election was deemed less competitive, the Senate race between Fetterman and Oz was one of the most closely watched races during this election cycle. In addition to the role of President Trump’s endorsement of Oz and the health of Fetterman, the candidates held very different views on abortion rights in the state and the issue was a major part of the campaign rhetoric. Overall, about four in ten Pennsylvania voters said the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe had a “major impact” on their decision to turnout and half said it had a “major impact” on which candidates they supported. These shares are larger among those who voted for Fetterman, younger voters, women voters under 50, and voters who were angry about Roe being overturned.

Abortion Ballot Measures

Voters in four states voted on ballot initiatives related to state constitutional rights to abortion in the 2022 midterm elections. Three states (California, Michigan, and Vermont) voted on ballot initiatives to amend those states’ Constitutions to establish an explicit right to abortion. All three of these ballot initiatives passed. On the other hand, Kentucky voters rejected a ballot initiative that would have amended its state Constitution to declare that there is no right to abortion. In all four states, about four in ten voters say the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe had a “major impact” on their decision to turn out to vote.

The Supreme Court decision was also a strong motivator for women, 18-49 years old, the group most directly impacted by the state ballot initiatives. Large shares of women voters under 50 in each of the four states said the Supreme Court overturning Roe had a “major impact” on whether they voted in the 2022 midterm election including more than half of women voters under the age of 50 in California (55%), Michigan (55%), Vermont (51%) and nearly half (46%) of Kentucky women voters under 50.

aBORTION ON THE BALLOT IN MICHIGAN

In addition to a gubernatorial election and district races, Michigan voters also voted on a ballot measure to amend the state Constitution to establish a broad individual right to reproductive freedom that includes abortion. Three-fourths of Michigan voters said the outcome of the gubernatorial election was “very important” to them, while six in ten said the same about the outcome of the ballot measure, which passed. Among key groups, there was a smaller difference in the share of voters who said each, the gubernatorial election and the ballot measure, was important to them. For example, similar shares of Democratic voters, women voters under 50, and voters who were angry about the Supreme Court decision, said both outcomes were “very important” to them.

Methodology

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