skip to main content
Abortion Edges Up as Important Voting Issue for Americans

Abortion Edges Up as Important Voting Issue for Americans

by Rebecca Riffkin

Story Highlights

  • 21% will only vote for candidate with same abortion views
  • Importance of abortion to voting has varied
  • Abortion more important to pro-life vote than pro-choice

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The percentage of Americans who say they would only vote for a candidate who shares their views on abortion has been edging up over the past seven years. The 21% who currently say this is, by one percentage point, the highest Gallup has found in its 19-year history of asking the question. The percentage of Americans who do not see abortion as a major issue in their voting decision has declined over the same period, and is now at 27%. Most of the rest (46%) say that abortion is one of many important factors they will take into account.

Most Americans Do Not Consider Abortion Top Issue When Voting

Although the percentage of Americans saying they will only vote for a candidate with their same views on abortion has varied since 1996, in all instances, it has clearly remained a minority opinion. The percentage of Americans who say that abortion is one of many important factors they consider when deciding whom to vote for has been relatively stable over the same period, with the exception of a jump to 59% in 2007.

Registered voters, at 19%, are slightly less likely than all Americans to say they will only vote for a candidate who shares their views on abortion. But even among registered voters, the importance of abortion is higher than Gallup has found most years.

Candidates' Abortion Views More Important to Pro-Life Than Pro-Choice

Historically, Americans who self-identify as "pro-life" on the abortion issue have been more likely than self-identified "pro-choice" Americans to say they will only vote for a candidate who shares their views. However, the pro-life advantage is quite narrow in 2015, with 23% of pro-life Americans saying they will only vote for a candidate who shares their views, compared with 19% of pro-choice Americans. The gap was nine points in 2014, and it has been as high as 18 points, in late 2004.

Importance of Abortion to Votes of Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Americans

The percentage of pro-choice Americans who say candidates must share their views has increased by four points since 2014, and is up eight points from 2008. The only other year when pro-choice Americans were as likely as they are today to prioritize the issue was in 2001.

Half of Americans (50%) now say they are pro-choice, higher than the 44% of Americans who self-identify as pro-life. This counterbalances the slight advantage that the pro-life side has in how important abortion is to their vote, so that those prepared to only vote for a pro-life candidate versus those only voting for a pro-choice candidate are even, at about 10%.

Implications

The recent uptick in the importance Americans place on where candidates stand on abortion comes as many states have enacted new or increased abortion restrictions. State lawmakers have passed more than 200 regulations on abortion since 2010, after Republicans gained control of many state legislatures. Republicans in Congress are currently advocating a federal bill banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, although President Barack Obama is unlikely to sign it.

Abortion is an ever-present issue in presidential campaigns -- and a year before the 2016 election, more Americans than in the past say they will only vote for a candidate who shares their views on abortion. So far, the candidates' abortion positions mostly echo their respective party lines, with Hillary Clinton and her leading potential rivals for the Democratic nomination all embracing the pro-choice label, while most of the likely Republican candidates (other than George Pataki) either call themselves pro-life or favor various limits on abortion and abortion funding.

Although abortion is a defining issue to at least one in five Americans, its influence on the 2016 election is likely to be limited as long as each party's candidates continue to espouse their respective party's abortion canon. Only significant deviation from that is likely to compel these abortion-focused voters to either look elsewhere or stay home on Election Day.

Historical data on these questions are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 6-10, 2015, with a random sample of 1,024 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/183449/abortion-edges-important-voting-issue-americans.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030