- 27% of voters say candidate must share views on abortion
- Record-low 16% say abortion will not be a major issue for them
- Abortion more of a key voting issue for those on the political left
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More U.S. voters this year than in any past election year indicate that abortion will be an important factor in their vote for major offices. Twenty-seven percent of registered voters say that a candidate must share their views on abortion to receive their vote, which is the highest measured in any election year. At the other end of the spectrum, 16% say abortion will not be a major issue in their vote, nine percentage points lower than Gallup has measured in any prior election year. As is typical, the largest percentage, 54%, say abortion will be one of many important factors in their vote.
Gallup first asked voters how the abortion issue factors into their voting calculus in 1992, leading up to the presidential election that year. The question has been asked in all recent presidential election years except for 2008 and was asked in the 2014 midterm election year.
Gallup has also asked the question in some nonelection years, often finding lower percentages saying abortion would not be a major issue in their vote than was the case in the nearest election year. Even then, the percentage saying abortion would not be a major issue had never been lower than the 23% measured in a 2007 survey. The full trend can be found in the linked PDF at the end of this article.
The current results are based on a May 2-22 poll, which began just after the leaking of a draft opinion of a Supreme Court ruling that indicated the court was going to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision and allow states to impose new restrictions on abortion. The poll finds that Americans are opposed to overturning Roe and that their attitudes have shifted toward greater support for legalized abortion.
Until 2016, fewer than one in five voters said a candidate must share their views on abortion. Since then, the percentage has continued to grow, reaching 24% in 2020 and 27% this year.
Likewise, the percentage of voters who say abortion is not a major issue in their vote has declined over the years.
- Between the 1992 and 2012 election years, 30% to 37% of voters said abortion was not a major issue for them, eclipsing the "candidate must share views" response by about 2-to-1.
- In 2016 and 2020, the percentage saying abortion would not be a major issue fell to 27% and 25%, respectively. In 2020, roughly equal proportions of voters said a candidate must share their views on abortion as said it wasn't a major voting issue for them.
- The 16% today saying abortion is not a major voting issue for them represents the first time less than 25% have attached this little significance to it in an election year and lags the 27% saying a candidate must share their views by a sizable margin.
Abortion Issue Appears to Favor Political Left This Year
In the wake of the Supreme Court leak, abortion appears to be a crucial voting issue for more Democratic and liberal voters than for Republican and conservative voters. Whereas 37% of Democrats and 38% of liberals say they would only vote for a candidate who shares their views on abortion, 24% of Republicans and conservatives say the same. And fewer than one in 10 Democrats (9%) and liberals (6%) say abortion is not a major voting issue for them, compared with 21% of Republicans and 22% of conservatives.
One right-leaning group that does place a high value on the abortion issue in voting is weekly churchgoers; 34% say a candidate must share their views on the issue, while 7% do not consider it a major issue.
There are also significant gender differences among registered voters, with twice as many women (36%) as men (17%) saying they would only vote for a candidate who shares their views on abortion.
Notably, the results are generally similar among voters who identify as "pro-life" or "pro-choice" on the abortion issue. This appears to be a function of abortion being a much more important voting issue for partisans who are aligned with their party platform on the issue than it is for partisans who are not aligned with their party, or for political independents. The vast majority of partisans are aligned with their party platform, including 90% of Democratic registered voters who identify as pro-choice and 70% of Republican registered voters who identify as pro-life. However, there are nearly as many registered voters who are either politically independent or who are partisans not aligned with their party on abortion as there are partisans who are aligned with their party on the abortion issue.
There has been a surge in Americans' identification as pro-choice rather than pro-life this year, as Roe may be overruled in the coming weeks. Fifty-eight percent of registered voters identify as pro-choice in the latest survey, compared with 38% who identify as pro-life.
Given the increase in the percentage of voters who say they would only vote for candidates who share their views on abortion and the increase in pro-choice identification this year, the issue appears to be a greater advantage for the pro-choice side than the pro-life side in this fall's elections.
Overall, 17% of U.S. registered voters identify as pro-choice and say a candidate must share their views on abortion to receive their vote. That compares with 10% of voters who identify as pro-life and require policy alignment on abortion. In most prior election years, the two sides were more closely matched on this measure of abortion-centric voting, with pro-life abortion issue voters having a slight edge.
U.S. voters, particularly those who identify as Democrats or liberals, are more likely than in the past to say abortion will be a key issue for them this year. If, as expected, the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, a greater share of voters than in past elections appear poised to cast ballots to seek to move public policy in a pro-choice direction. While that should work to the Democratic Party's advantage this year in elections for governors and members of Congress, it is not clear if that will be enough to overcome the challenging electoral environment for the party, as well as other issues that may be more motivating for conservatives. Democratic candidates are seeking to win office in a year when President Joe Biden is unpopular and Americans are concerned about the economy, both factors that have historically worked against the president's party in midterm elections.
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