Voters have grown more supportive of legalizing abortion following the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, with a clear majority opposing restrictions, like bans at a certain point of pregnancy or barring women from traveling to get a legal abortion, according to a new Wall Street Journal poll that underscores the importance of the issue in the midterm elections.
According to the survey, 60% of voters said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, up from 55% in March. Another 29% said it should be illegal, except in cases of rape, incest and when the woman’s life is endangered, compared with 30% in March. And 6% said it should be illegal in all cases, down from 11% in March.
The court’s decision to end federal constitutional protections for the procedure has injected new Democratic energy into a midterm election that Republicans expected to be dominated by economic issues. About a dozen states have banned many or most abortions since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
“Abortion is not an issue that most people, prior to Dobbs, spent a lot of time thinking about,” said Democratic pollster Molly Murphy, whose firm conducted the poll with Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio. “What Dobbs has done is one, we’ve had a national conversation about it. Two, it has gone from hypothetical to real.”
More than half of voters said the ruling made them more motivated to vote in the midterm elections.
Asked broadly about their top issue for the midterms, voters cited the economy and inflation first, followed by abortion. But when offered a choice of five issues and asked which made them most likely to vote, they put the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade ahead of inflation.
Among those who named the court ruling as the most important issue tested against others, 77% were Democrats, 8% were Republicans and 9% were independents.
Support for abortion in most or all cases rose among Catholics to 59%, up from 45% in March. Support from Black voters was at 69%, up from 59%. College-educated women moved to 76% in support, up from 65%.
“It’s definitely a motivator,” said Elizabeth Schoenknecht, 46, of Hudson, Wis., who is a registered Democrat and works in philanthropy. “It’s heartbreaking to see the reality come to fruition.”
Among Democrats, 92% said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, 6% said it should be illegal except in some cases, such as rape, incest, and when the woman’s life is endangered, and 1% said it should be illegal in all cases. A total of 59% of independents said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, 26% said illegal except in limited cases and 7% illegal in all cases.
With Republicans, 27% said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, 56% said it should illegal except in limited cases and 11% said it should be illegal in all cases.
“The truth of the matter is even among Republicans there isn’t a clear consensus. They want restrictions, the question is what restrictions and how far should they go,” said Mr. Fabrizio, the GOP pollster.
The poll also showed clear opposition to the types of abortion restrictions being enacted or discussed in some states. A total of 62% opposed an abortion ban at 6 weeks of pregnancy that only included an exception for the health of the mother, and 57% opposed a ban at 15 weeks with an exception only for the health of the mother. The survey said 77% opposed banning women who live in states where abortion is illegal from traveling to other states to get an abortion. And 81% were against banning all abortions.
Consider this a companion to that poll about abortion attitudes in Texas. It makes sense that state polls would be directionally in line with national polls, but the state poll was from June and as I said appeared to me to be if nothing else ahead of its time. We also don’t know what the question wording was in this poll. I also note that while the story listed attitudinal shifts among several subgroups, it didn’t include Latinos among them, which could mean any number of things. I find all of this more suggestive than conclusive, but moving the want I want it to. I just don’t know yet what I think about how much of an effect it may have in November.