While more voters said they would support a candidates in favor of abortion rights, at 42%, it was not a clear majority. Almost three-in-10 people polled said they will vote for a candidate who wants to restrict access to abortion service, and a quarter said it doesn’t make a difference.
The issue of abortion will be newly important in 2018 after Justice Anthony Kennedy, the key swing vote on abortion cases in recent years, announced Wednesday he would retire from the Supreme Court. The Kaiser poll was conducted before Kennedy’s announcement. President Trump has expressed a preference for proven conservatives and he will now nominate a successor to Kennedy, who voted to preserve Roe v. Wade on multiple occasions.
“In light of Justice Kennedy’s retirement, voters’ views on abortion are back in the spotlight, but we found there are many other issues affecting women that voters say may influence how they vote, including paid family leave, workplace protections against sexual harassment, and even the #MeToo movement,” said Molly Brodie, senior vice president for executive operations at Kaiser Family Foundation said in an email. “Particularly for women and Democratic voters, these issues are one factor in how they’re evaluating candidates.”
Democrats were much more likely to say they’ll vote for a candidate who supports access to abortion services, at 72% with only 14% of Republicans agreeing. Almost half of women agreed that would make them more likely to vote for a candidate, compared to 37% of men. Women ages 18 to 44 were even more likely, at 57% support, a quarter wanting to restrict.
Activists on both sides of the issue are gearing up for a fight and those who oppose abortion rights see an opening.
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin tweeted after the retirement announcement: “Anthony Kennedy is retiring. Abortion will be illegal in twenty states in 18 months. #SCOTUS”
While a new conservative justice could put the Roe precedent in jeopardy, it’s clear that most Americans wouldn’t agree with a decision to repeal the ruling on abortion in the court.
In December 2016, Pew Research
asked respondents if they would like to see the Supreme Court overturn the Roe v. Wade decision — a ruling that established a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy. The highest number of Americans (69%) said “no, don’t overturn” since Pew started asking the question in 2003. Only 28% want it to be overturned. The Kaiser release had only 29% saying that it should be overturned, with 16% of Democrats and 53% of Republicans. There was no substantial difference between men and women — both supporting Roe v. Wade at 65 to 68%.
Legal abortion has been favorable among the majority of Americans for a very long time, with around 80% saying it should be legal under all or certain circumstances since Gallup began polling
on the issue in 1975. It hit its most recent high in September 1995, when 85% of voters said that some or all abortions should be legal. A low happened in May 2002 — when 22% said that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.
Fewer people consider themselves “pro-choice,” a politically loaded term, than say abortion should be legal in all or some circumstances. Gallup’s May 2018
polling showing a split between those who say they are pro-choice (48%) and pro-life (48%). But in that poll 50% supported legal abortion in certain circumstances, 29% supported legal abortion in all circumstances and 18% wanted it to be illegal in all circumstances.