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Abortion is the top issue for 1 in 8 voters in the US ahead of this year’s elections, KFF survey finds

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

About half of registered voters in the United States say this year’s elections will have a “major impact” on access to abortion, and about 1 in 8 voters says that abortion is the most important issue driving their vote, according to a new KFF survey.

Abortion is a particularly motivating issue for Black women, with more than a quarter of voters in this group saying it is the most important issue to them ahead of the 2024 elections. It is also the driving issue for larger-than-average shares of Democratic women (22%), women who live in states with abortion bans (19%) and women of reproductive age, or adult women under 50 (17%).

The majority of voters who named abortion as the most important issue to them say it should be legal in all or most cases. About half (48%) said they would vote for President Joe Biden if the election were held today, while 26% said they would back former President Donald Trump.

“One in eight isn’t a majority of voters, and it’s down from the midterms, but it is still a share that could be decisive in tight elections,” said Ashley Kirzinger, director of survey methodology and associate director of public opinion and survey research with KFF. Black women, in particular, are a key voting group that tends to vote Democratic and tends to have high turnout, she said.

KFF, formerly the Kaiser Family Foundation, is a nonprofit health polling, research and journalism organization.

During the 2022 midterm elections, just months after the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, CNN exit polls found that 27% of voters named abortion as the most important issue to them – second only to inflation.

The new survey didn’t compare how abortion ranks against other issues.

Abortion is still a politically polarizing issue.

Overall, a little over half of adults say they would like to see the federal government pass laws to protect abortion nationwide, compared with about 1 in 5 who say they would rather see the federal government prohibit abortion, according to the KFF survey.

The New York Times reported last month that former President Donald Trump has privately expressed support for a 16-week abortion ban, but the KFF survey found that most adults – nearly 60% – say they oppose a policy like this.

Underneath the overall majority in support of federal protection of abortion and against a 16-week ban is a deep partisan divide. More than three-quarters of Democrats want the federal government to legally protect abortion, compared with about a quarter of Republicans, the KFF poll found. And 75% of Democrats are against a 16-week ban, while 63% of Republicans would support it.

Biden has a slight advantage over Trump when it comes to reaching voters on abortion policy: 38% of voters said they trust Biden more to “move abortion policy in the right direction,” compared with 29% who said they would trust Trump more.

However, a significant share of voters – more than 1 in 5 – say they don’t trust either candidate on the issue.

“In an election with two unpopular candidates, the issues could be driving voters more than the candidates,” Kirzinger said.

Certain abortion policies bridge partisan divides.

An overwhelming majority of adults – 86% – want to protect access to abortion for people who have pregnancy-related emergencies, such as miscarriages. Large majorities of Democrats, independents and Republicans say they support these policies, according to the KFF poll.

And more than 60% of the public opposes policies that would criminalize mailing abortion pills to people in states with bans and policies that would prohibit clinics that receive federal funds from providing abortions. Relatively narrow majorities of Republicans support these policies, KFF found.

It’s hard to say how much the abortion issue will motivate voters to turn out on election day until there is a more complete picture of the election landscape, including state ballot measures, Kirzinger said.

“What we’ve seen is that when it is on a ballot, it’s always gone in the pro-abortion direction and seems to be a motivating force,” she said. “So it could rise in terms of importance, but where we are now, this is where it exists for just a candidate election.”

The KFF poll was conducted by phone and online from February 20 to 28 among 1,316 US adults, including 1,072 registered voters. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points; among registered voters, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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