Exclusive: Concern about abortion explodes among Democrats, fueling a push to vote

Concern about abortion access exploded among Democratic voters as an election issue over the past month, a USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll found, as the repercussions of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade reverberate.

Sixty-four percent of Democrats say the court's action makes them more likely to vote in November, potentially a crucial factor in midterm elections that traditionally have low turnout. That's more than double the 29% of Democrats who expressed that view in a USA TODAY/Suffolk survey taken in June after a draft of the landmark decision was leaked. 

The growing power of the issue in propelling turnout among abortion-rights supporters could boost Democratic prospects to limit losses in the House and contest control of the Senate in the midterms. GOP hopes of a "wave" election that would sweep Republican candidates into office have been fueled by a campaign driven by economic anxiety.

Since the high court ended recognition of abortion access as a constitutionally protected right on June 24, seven states have banned abortion completely and another four have implemented a ban starting at six weeks of pregnancy, according to an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute. As many as 26 states are considered certain or likely to ban abortion.

In one case that drew national attention, a 10-year-old girl in Ohio who was raped had to travel to Indiana to end her pregnancy.

More stories about the consequences of the new abortion restrictions and actions by additional states could keep the issue at center stage as the campaign now enters its final 100 days. 

More:The fight over abortion will be on the ballot this November in at least 5 states

"Abortion is the No. 1 issue for me right now, because as a woman my right to having a medical procedure has been taken away," said Amanda D'Alessio, 39, a paralegal and a Democrat from Astoria, New York. She was among those called in the poll.  

Protest in Atlanta on June 24, 2022, against the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Less impact on Republican voters

A third of Democrats say the court decision hasn't had any effect on their likelihood of voting. In contrast, 75% of Republicans say it has had no effect; 21% say it makes them more likely to vote.

The poll of 1,000 registered voters, taken by landline and cellphone July 22-25, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

In the survey taken June 12-15, Democrats by 53%-36% said the economy was more important to their vote than abortion.

Now, in response to an open-ended question, 27% of Democrats cite abortion as their top election concern, more than any other issue and more than a combination of the 12% who name the economy and the 7% who name inflation. 

More:100 days before the midterms, Americans aren't happy about their options, poll shows

In June, Americans split 40%-40% when asked whether they supported the Democratic or the Republican candidate for Congress. Now, Democrats are favored by a narrow 44%-40%.

The impact of the Supreme Court decision was strongest among groups that tend to vote for Democrats.

Women were more likely than men to say the decision could send them to the polls, 49% compared with 32%. So did 44% of younger people, those 18 to 34 years old, the age group most likely to report an impact. By 64%-23%, self-identified liberals were more likely than conservatives to say it would affect their decision to vote.

Exceptions to abortion restrictions supported across party lines

Among all those surveyed, abortion has broken into the top group of issues shaping the midterms. Asked to name the most important issue affecting their vote for Congress in November, 20% volunteered the economy, 16% abortion, and 11% inflation.

Across party lines, Americans overwhelmingly oppose the toughest restrictions implemented by some states:

  • 83% of registered voters, including 91% of Democrats and 73% of Republicans, support exceptions to abortion bans when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
  • 87% of voters, including 92% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans, support exceptions to abortion bans when someone's life or health is threatened by their pregnancy.
  • 84% of voters, including 91% of Democrats and 75% of Republicans, say states that ban abortion should not be able to restrict the ability of a pregnant resident to cross state lines to obtain one.

"You're not going to tell me how I have to live my life," Laura Castello, 36, a psychotherapist from Chicago, said in a follow-up interview. The Democrat said she was "just wanting people to have their own choice."

Julie Clifford, 62, a Republican from Burleson, Texas, said she supported the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, which returned the issue to the states.

 "I believe in our republic, and I believe that the states should have the majority of the power," said Clifford, a retired engineer. "I don't like the federal government having the power that it does."

Even so, she sees abortion as a complicated question, and she supports abortion rights.

 "I had some roommates that got themselves in trouble in college," she said. "It would have been a major change in their life, and so they chose to do an abortion and, you know, I got them through that process."  

More:Legal battles over abortion 'trigger laws' continue across US: What to know, state by state

More:A Biden vs. Trump rematch in 2024? Two-thirds of Americans say no thanks