• Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

CNN Poll: Abortion’s role as an electoral litmus test hasn’t faded a year after Supreme Court decision overturning Roe

CNN Poll: Abortion's role as an electoral litmus test hasn't faded a year after Supreme Court decision overturning Roe


Americans’ discontent with the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade remains as potent as it was a year ago, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, with a record-high share of the public saying that they’re likely to take a candidate’s position on abortion into consideration when voting.

A 64% majority of US adults say they disapprove of last year’s Supreme Court ruling that women do not have a constitutional right to an abortion, with half strongly disapproving – an assessment that’s almost entirely unchanged from CNN’s poll last July in the immediate wake of the decision.

The new poll suggests that the issue’s importance as an electoral litmus test hasn’t diminished. In May 2022, immediately after the leaked draft of the Dobbs decisions, 26% of Americans said they would only vote for a candidate who shared their views on abortion. In the latest poll, that number stands at 29%. Another 55% say they’d consider a candidate’s position on abortion as one of many important factors, for a combined total of 84% who say they’re likely to pay attention to candidate’s position on abortion when voting. Just 16% say they don’t see abortion as a major issue, a record low in CNN polling dating back to 1996.

“Female friends and I don’t feel safe in this country as a whole,” Jenna Boggess, a 31-year-old Ohio resident who participated in the poll, said via email. “My life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is constantly under attack in my own state and country.”

She planned to vote this week against Issue 1, a measure that would raise the threshold of support needed to change the Ohio constitution, ahead of a November ballot measure on abortion, calling it “one of the most important votes I’ll participate in.” At the same time, she said, she was “disheartened that abortion is on the political platform at all” at a time when global issues also demand attention.

About one-third of Americans who approve of the Supreme Court’s ruling, 34%, now say they’d like to see anti-abortion politicians attempt to implement nationwide abortion bans, rather than leaving the issue up to individual states. While that remains the minority opinion, it’s an increase from just 20% who felt that way last year. Support for additional restrictions is particularly concentrated among abortion opponents who are younger than 45, or born-again or evangelical Christians.

“The saddest part for me, personally, is the fact that you have decided to take religion, and God, and Jesus out of the country,” said Tony Stamper, a 53-year-old who also participated in the poll and said he was happy to see abortion banned in his state of Kentucky. Overturning Roe, he said, “was a good move, but we’ve got a long way to go.”

Most of those who opposed the ruling, meanwhile, remain dissatisfied with their side’s political response. Among those who disapprove of the Dobbs decision, a 78% majority say that politicians in the federal government who support legalizing abortion aren’t doing enough to ensure abortion access, with 60% saying that politicians in their state’s government are similarly doing too little.

President Joe Biden’s approval rating on abortion policy stands at 40% among the full public, similar to his overall 41% job approval rating.

While the importance of abortion has risen across ideological lines, the change is particularly sharp on the left. Self-described liberals are now 14 percentage points likelier than self-described conservatives to say that they’d treat a candidate’s views on abortion as a litmus test, up from a 4-point difference last January.

Across the federal, state and personal levels, Americans as a whole say that the effects of overturning Roe have been more negative than positive. A 64% majority say the decision has had a negative effect on the country, 54% that’s it’s negatively affected women in their state, and 21% that it’s negatively affected their own family. Only one-quarter see the decision as a positive for the country, with even fewer seeing it as beneficial on the state or individual level.

Americans are more likely to see the decision as impactful nationally than personally: 69% say the ruling hasn’t personally affected them or their family, while just 25% say it’s had no effect on women in their state, and only 10% that it’s had no effect nationally.

Results from the same poll released last week showed that when asked to name the most important issue facing the country, 6% of Americans mention abortion or reproductive rights and 2% mention women’s rights or women’s health. That’s far below the 44% naming economic issues, but an elevated level of concern compared with summer 2021, when fewer than 1% mentioned abortion as their top priority.

Reactions to the Supreme Court’s ruling and views of America’s post-Roe era often diverge significantly along partisan, demographic and regional lines. Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to say that overturning Roe has negatively affected the country, and roughly four times as likely to say it had a major negative effect on the US. A 62% majority of women younger than 45 say they strongly disapprove of the Dobbs decision, and 34% say that overturning Roe has negatively affected them and their family, both higher than the figures among older women or men of any age.

While just 26% of Americans in states where abortion remains legal find their state’s laws too restrictive, that rises in states where abortion is banned (45%) and those where it is legal but with gestational limits of 6 to 18 weeks (47%). More than half of women and Americans younger than 45 living in states with abortion bans call their state’s laws too restrictive, as do more than 80% of Democratic-aligned residents in those states.

And among those who opposed the Dobbs decision, majorities of those living in states where abortion is banned (76%) or limited (78%) say that politicians in their state are not doing enough to ensure abortion access, a view shared by a smaller 48% of those living in states where abortion is currently legal.

The view that abortion is a key voting issue is most common among partisans whose views on the topic align with their party – meaning that it might be more likely to further entrench polarized voters than to help swing wavering ones. Thirty-six percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who disapprove of overturning Roe say they’d only vote for a politician who shared their views on abortion, as do 30% of Republicans and Republican-leaners who approve of the decision. By contrast, just 12% of Republican-aligned Americans who disapprove of overturning Roe say they consider it a crucial voting issue.

Women as a whole are 8 percentage points likelier than men to say they consider abortion a significant voting issue, with that modest gender divide concentrated among Democrats and independents. Four in 10 White, college-educated women – a crucial part of the Democratic base – say a candidate must share their views on the topic.

The CNN poll was conducted by SSRS from July 1 through July 31 among a random national sample of 1,279 adults initially reached by mail. Surveys were either conducted online or by telephone with a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.

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