Abortion Access Rises as a Voting Issue and Motivator, Especially Among Democrats and Reproductive-Age Women, But Inflation Continues to Dominate as Americans Worry About Bills
Large Majorities of Democrats, Independents and Women of Reproductive Age Want Their State to Guarantee Access to Abortion, while a Slim Majority of Republicans Want Their State to Ban It
Following the Supreme Court’s decision to end the constitutional right to an abortion, most voters (55%) now say access to abortion is “very important” to their vote in November’s midterm elections, up 9 percentage points since February prior to the decision, a new KFF Health Tracking Poll finds.
This heightened interest is greatest among key voter groups who largely want to guarantee access to abortion, including Democratic voters (77% now say abortion access is very important, up from 50% in February), Democratic women voters (82%, up from 55%), and women voters under 50 years old (73%, up from 59%).
At the same time, fewer Republican women voters say access to abortion is very important to their vote now than in February (44%, down from 60%), perhaps a sign that the Supreme Court’s recent decision made the issue less salient for a group who largely want to restrict abortion.
While abortion has become a more salient issue for certain voting groups, and while economic issues dominate, the poll suggests that the Supreme Court decision’s impact on the 2022 midterm elections could have an impact at the margins.
“Lower-turnout midterm elections can be a game of inches, and abortion could make a difference, especially if gas prices continue to fall,” KFF President and CEO Drew Altman said. “It’s motivating a lot of younger women to vote, and most Democrats, half of independents and even some Republicans plan to vote for candidates who support abortion access.”
For example, just over half of voters (54%) say the decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center overturning Roe v. Wade has made them “more likely” to consider a candidate’s position on abortion when deciding whom to vote for, while few (3%) say it has made them “less likely” to do so.
This includes large majorities of Democratic voters (72%), Democratic women voters (72%), and women voters under 50 (64%) who say the overturn of Roe has made them “more likely” to consider a candidate’s position on abortion.
In addition, when asked about the decision’s impact on their motivation to vote, 43% of all voters say it has made them “more motivated,” a slight uptick compared to a similar question in May (37%) before the Court’s ruling but after the draft opinion leaked. This includes nearly two thirds of Democrats (64%), four in 10 independents (41%), and a fifth of Republicans (20%). The vast majority (82%) of those who are more motivated say they plan to vote for candidates who will protect abortion access.
Some groups saw a larger boost in motivation, including reproductive-age women. Now 61% of this group says the decision makes them more motivated to vote, up 19 percentage points from May (42%). Again, the vast majority (88%) of the motivated group plans to vote for candidates who will protect access.
While some of these findings suggest abortion could play a larger role in this year’s midterms, voters overall continue to prioritize inflation, including gas prices, as their top voting issue.
Three-quarters (74%) of voters say inflation, including rising gas prices, will be “very important” to their vote. Abortion access (55%) ranks in a second tier with gun violence (57%) and health care costs, including prescription drug costs (55%).
One reason inflation and gas prices may sit atop voters’ priorities is because most people are worried about their ability to afford routine household expenses.
This includes three quarters (76%) who say they are at least somewhat worried about paying for gasoline or other transportation costs. Somewhat smaller majorities say they worry about affording unexpected medical bills (64%), their monthly utilities like electricity and heat (62%), and food (61%).
Post-Roe, Most Adults Want Their State to Guarantee Abortion Access Rather than Ban It
The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs allows states to make laws about abortion in their state. The new survey finds that most (61%) of the public says they want their state to guarantee access to abortion, while a quarter (25%) want their states to ban it.
Those who favor state action to protect abortion access includes large majorities of Democrats (83%), independents (65%), and women of reproductive age (68%). In contrast, just over half (54%) of Republicans want their states to ban abortion.
There are 17 states that already have laws on the books that ban abortion, either from before Roe or from more recent “trigger” laws anticipating Roe’s end. About half (51%) of those living in states that have or are anticipated to ban abortion soon say they want their states to protect access to abortion, compared to a third (32%) that want their state to ban it.
About two thirds (68%) of women under 50 want their state to guarantee access to abortion. This includes large majorities of Democratic (82%) and independent (74%) women in that age group, though about half (48%) of Republican women in that age range want their states to ban abortion.
Other findings include:
- Two thirds (65%) of the public disapprove of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe. Most Democrats (90%) and independents (72%) disapprove of the decision, while most Republicans (71%) approve of it.
- Most (83%) Democratic voters say they plan on voting for a candidate who wants to protect access to abortion, as do a narrower majority (56%) of independent voters. Half of Republicans voters (51%) plan on voting for a candidate who wants to limit abortion access, though one in five (20%) plan to vote for a candidate who wants to protect access.
- While most Republican women share their party’s views on abortion, a third (34%) disapprove of the Court’s decision overturning Roe. A quarter (25%) of Republican women voters say they plan to vote for a candidate who wants to protect access to abortion.
- In the 17 states that have abortion bans on the books, nearly three quarters (73%) of residents are aware that abortion has or will soon be banned. In 16 states and the District of Columbia that have laws protecting the right to abortion, a similar share (72%) is aware that abortion will remain legal in their states.
Designed and analyzed by public opinion researchers at KFF, the Health Tracking Poll was conducted from July 7-17, 2022, online and by telephone among a nationally representative sample of 1,847 U.S. adults in English and Spanish. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points for the full sample. For results based on subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be higher.