Close to 2 in 5 voters say a Supreme Court decision overturning federal abortion rights would make them more motivated to vote in this year’s midterm elections, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Health Tracking Poll.
The survey comes as the country awaits the court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, after a draft opinion leaked to the press in May indicating that the nation’s highest court will strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion ruling and leave individual states to determine abortion rights.
Thirty-seven percent of registered voters, the majority of them Democrats, said such a decision would make them more motivated to vote. More than half of Democratic voters, 55 percent, said they would be more motivated, while 73 percent of Republican voters said it would not make a difference in their motivation.
The issue of abortion access has raised alarms among policymakers from the local level to Washington D.C. Some political experts have said they believe outrage over the issue could boost Democratic candidates this fall.
A number of candidates facing off in midterm elections have weighed in on the abortion debate. Democratic candidates such as House candidate Jessica Cisneros of Texas and Senate candidate Cheri Beasley of North Carolina have spoken out in favor of protecting abortion rights. Party leaders such as Vice President Kamala Harris and advocacy organizations have also tied the issue to elections and get-out-the-vote efforts.
“A priority for all who care about this issue, a priority should be to elect pro-choice leaders at the local, the state and the federal level,” Harris said in remarks at the U.S. Capitol last month. Though 64 percent of U.S. adults say they do not want abortion rights to be overturned, 57 percent of registered voters said overturning Roe would not change their interest in voting. Still, more than half of voters also said they are more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to protect abortion access, compared with 27 percent who are more likely to vote for someone who wants to limit access. About one-third of voters said they either have a little or no knowledge of the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion.
Democrats currently control both chambers of Congress but face a difficult landscape in November. The president’s party usually loses seats in a midterm election, and Democratic President Joe Biden’s approval ratings have been averaging around 40 percent.
This reality could influence how abortion advocacy leaders and groups engage with voters ahead of the midterms. For example, Texas-based reproductive rights groups Avow Texas and All* Above All Action Fund announced Wednesday a canvassing program to build relationships with voters in the Dallas suburbs to have conversations about abortion and connect “their personal beliefs of compassion and personal decision-making to the impact of abortion restrictions.”
Texas currently has a six-week abortion ban in effect, as well as a trigger law banning almost all abortions if Roe is overturned.
As state restrictions continue to put pressure on abortion clinics, more women may turn to self-managed abortion – if they know about it.
The KFF survey found significant knowledge gaps about abortion methods and emergency contraception. Twenty-seven percent of adults overall and 40 percent of women under the age of 50 said they have heard of the abortion pill mifepristone, which accounts for a majority of abortions in the country. It’s unclear how the legality of self-managed abortions will be affected in certain states if the Supreme Court overturns Roe.
The KFF survey was conducted online and by phone between May 10 and May 19 among a nationally representative sample of 1,537 U.S. adults. The margin of error is plus or minus three points.