Two-Thirds of Americans disapprove of overturning Roe, but abortion not top voting issue

Lexie Verdon
Kaiser Health News

Barely a month after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade’s federal guarantee of access to abortion, two-thirds of Americans said they disapprove of the court’s decision and 6 in 10 said they want their states to make abortion legal, a new poll finds.

Yet despite that interest, abortion is not top of mind for many voters, the poll released Aug. 2 by KFF found. Three-quarters of registered voters said inflation and gas prices were their top concerns when considering decisions in the upcoming midterm elections. Abortion access was a key priority for 55% of voters, about the same as health care costs and gun violence. That was up from the 46% recorded by a KFF poll in February, after the Supreme Court had heard arguments in the case.

Democrats were much more likely to cite abortion as a top issue in their voting considerations than Republicans or independents. Increased concerns among female voters ages 18 to 49 were also evident in the poll, which found nearly 3 in 4 of them said abortion access was very important in their election considerations, up from 59% in February. Large majorities of Democratic and independent women in that age group said they want their states to guarantee abortion access, as do 4 in 10 Republican women of reproductive age.

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The Supreme Court’s decision, however, does not appear to have had the galvanizing effect that some politicians expected. The poll found just a small increase in the percentage of voters who said they are now more motivated to vote from the percentage in May – 43% compared with 37% – after a leaked draft opinion from the court was published.

Among some key groups, however, the issue was more salient. About 6 in 10 female voters of reproductive age, up from 42% in May, said they are more likely to vote following the decision. Democratic and independent voters each reported a 9 percentage point increase among those who said abortion access was a motivating factor for the fall elections. A majority of Hispanic voters also said they are now more likely to vote.

A woman holds a protest sign in a rally to defend the right to abortion at Centennial Olympic Park on May 3, 2022, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

More than half of independent voters and 83% of Democratic voters said they would support candidates who promise to protect abortion rights. One in 5 Republicans said the same, but just over half of GOP voters said they will favor candidates who want to limit abortion access.

The court’s decision appears to have created a split among Republican women, the poll found. A third said they disapprove of the decision and about a quarter of them say they plan to support a candidate who favors abortion access. The majority, however, said they will vote for people seeking to limit abortion.

Just over half of people living in states with pre-Roe abortion bans or laws that triggered bans or severe restrictions if Roe was overturned said they would rather have the state guarantee abortion access, while 32% of residents in those 17 states said they favor abortion bans.

Non-Hispanic Black Americans were also strongly opposed to their states banning abortions. Eighty-six percent said they did not want abortion bans, compared with 70% of non-Hispanic whites and 69% of Hispanic respondents. At the same time, 68% of Black Americans said they wanted their states to guarantee abortion rights, compared with 60% of white respondents and 61% of Hispanics. (Hispanics can be of any race or combination of races.)

The poll, conducted July 7-17 online and by telephone, has a 4 percentage point margin of sampling error for the full sample. For some of the subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be higher.