Washington, DC (July 7, 2022) — A new survey conducted in the days following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization by Public Religion Research Institute reveals that Democrats have become much more likely to say they will only vote for a candidate who shares their views on abortion. More than four in ten Democrats (43%) now indicate this is a crucial aspect of their vote, compared to only 17% who said the same in the fall of 2020. This is the first time in PRRI polling that Democrats have been more likely than Republicans (31%) to say a candidate must share their view on abortion in order to get their vote.
“The historic reversal of Roe, which we find is opposed by most Americans, will likely play a major role in this fall’s midterm elections and beyond, with the issue being particularly salient with younger women and Democrat women voters,” said Melissa Deckman, Ph.D., PRRI CEO. “Moreover, as some state legislatures move to restrict the sale of FDA-approved abortion drugs or to restrict women from seeking abortion in states where it is legal, our new study finds most Americans, regardless of party affiliation, would oppose such measures.”
Additionally, for the first time in PRRI polling, Americans who think abortion should be legal in most or all cases are more likely than those who think abortion should be illegal in most or all cases to say they will only vote for candidates who share that view (34% vs. 31%). In 2020, only 15% of those who said abortion should be legal in most or all cases would only vote for a candidate who shared that view, compared to nearly double (29%) among those who think abortion should be illegal in most or all cases.
White evangelical Protestants (37%) remain among the most likely groups to say they will only vote for candidates who share their view on abortion, and this is unchanged since 2020 (36%). However, they are now joined by 40% of non-Christian religious Americans and 36% of religiously unaffiliated Americans who say the same. These latter two groups have more than doubled in the proportion saying they will only vote for a candidate who shares their view on abortion since 2020 (18% and 17%, respectively). White Catholics (31% vs. 20% in 2020), white mainline Protestants (27% vs. 17% in 2020), Black Protestants (24% vs. 14% in 2020), and Hispanic Catholics (30% vs. 20% in 2020) have become more likely to say this as well.
Polarization in Opposing the Overturn of Roe v. Wade
Most Americans oppose the Supreme Court overturning Roe (63%), including a plurality who strongly oppose it (44%), while about one-third (34%) favor it. This is mostly unchanged from opinion prior to the overturn — in March 2022, 61% opposed a then-hypothetical Roe overturn and 36% favored it.
There has, however, been polarization by party affiliation since the March 2022 survey. In March, 48% of Republicans opposed the Roe overturn; in wake of the court’s Dobbs decision, however, now just 33% of Republicans oppose the Roe overturn. On the other side, 86% of Democrats oppose the overturn, whereas 74% opposed a hypothetical overturn in March. Two-thirds of independents (66%) oppose the Roe overturn decision, slightly increased from 61% who opposed a hypothetical overturn in March.
Similar shifting has occurred by religious affiliation as well. White evangelical Protestants are least likely to oppose the overturn (30%), even though 46% had opposed it in March. Sizeable majorities of other religious affiliations, including Black Protestants (76%), the religiously unaffiliated (75%), Hispanic Catholics (72%), non-Christian religious Americans (69%), white mainline Protestants (68%), and white Catholics (62%), are opposed to the Supreme Court’s action in overturning Roe. All of these groups except non-Christian religious and religiously unaffiliated have become more likely to oppose the overturn since March.
A majority of Americans (53%) say Congress should pass a national law preserving a right to abortion, compared to 12% who say Congress should pass a national law banning abortion. About one-third (32%) say abortion law should be left to the states. Most of those who oppose the Roe overturn say Congress should pass a law preserving the right to abortion (74%), while most who favor the Roe overturn say it should be left to the states (59%). One in four who favor the Roe overturn (24%) say Congress should ban abortion nationally.
Republicans and White Evangelical Protestants Are Outliers
The survey asked about various restrictions on abortion that have been proposed or discussed in some states. Most Americans oppose such restrictions, including bans on all abortions except to save the life of the mother (72% oppose), bans on all abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother (60% oppose), the so-called “heartbeat bills” that ban abortions after six weeks (64% oppose), and bans on abortions after 15 weeks (52% oppose).
Compared to majorities of all Americans who oppose each of these proposals, less than half of white evangelical Protestants oppose these restrictions – including 42% who oppose a full ban on abortion except to save the life of the mother, 33% oppose a full ban on abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother, 25% oppose bans after six weeks, and 16% oppose bans after 15 weeks. A slim majority of Republicans (52%) oppose bans that only leave an exception for the life of the mother, but far fewer oppose a full ban on abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother (36%), bans after six weeks (39%), and bans after 15 weeks (21%).
Abortion Pills and Crossing State Lines
About seven in ten Americans (72%) oppose laws that make it illegal to use or receive through the mail FDA-approved drugs, also known as the abortion pill, for a medical abortion. One in four Americans (25%) favor such laws. Democrats (85%) are notably more likely than independents (75%) to oppose laws that make it illegal to use or receive through the mail FDA-approved drugs for a medical abortion. Although some Republicans have suggested these restrictions, a majority of Republicans (56%) oppose these laws. Again, white evangelical Protestants (48%) are the only religious group without majority opposition to this proposal.
The vast majority of Americans (77%) oppose laws that would make it illegal to cross state lines to obtain an abortion in another state where it is legal, including 64% of Republicans and 55% of white evangelical Protestants. By contrast, nearly nine in ten Democrats (88%), 84% of independents, and at least three-fourths of other religious groups oppose laws that make it illegal to cross state lines to obtain an abortion in another state where it is legal.
Other key findings in the PRRI analysis include:
- Most Americans, including 77% of Republicans and 73% of white evangelical Protestants, oppose restrictions on what birth control can be used to prevent pregnancy.
- Vast majorities also oppose making it a felony to seek or perform an abortion.
- Almost two-thirds (65%) of Americans say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, and one-third of Americans (33%) say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, unchanged from March 2022.
- Support for legal abortion in all cases has slowly ticked up, from a low of 18% in 2010 and 2011 to the current 33%.
- The proportion of Americans who say abortion should be illegal in all cases has slowly declined from 15% in 2010, and a high of 19% in 2014, to its current level of 8% (unchanged from 9% in March 2022).
- Women (67%) are more likely than men (62%) to support legal abortion in most or all cases. Seven in ten women ages 18-29 (70%) support legal abortion in most or all cases, compared to 58% of men in that age group.
- Women (36%) are more likely than men (28%) to say they will only vote for someone who shares their views on abortion, both increased from 2020 (22% and 18%, respectively). Democrat women (47%) are particularly likely to say this compared to Republican women (33%) and independent women (27%).
The full report, “Political and Religious Activation and Polarization in the Wake of the Roe v. Wade Overturn,” is available on PRRI’s website.
The survey was designed and conducted by PRRI among a random sample of 2,038 adults (ages 18 and over) living in all 50 states in the United States and who are part of Ipsos’s Knowledge Panel. Interviews were conducted online between June 24 and 26, 2022. The margin of error for the national survey is +/- 2.3 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence, including the design effect for the survey of 1.1.
PRRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy.