Abortion-rights ballot measures are leading in the polls

Two years after Dobbs, Americans still broadly support abortion access.

June 7, 2024, 1:42 PM

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, voters in Michigan, Ohio, California and Vermont have approved measures enshrining abortion rights in their state constitutions. This year, abortion is on the ballot again in at least four states, and early polling indicates strong support for these measures in red, blue and purple states alike.

In Florida, voters will decide whether to adopt Amendment 4, which would establish a constitutional right to abortion up to fetal viability, overturning the state's current six-week abortion ban. Support for Amendment 4 runs ahead of opposition by double digits in each poll that has asked about the proposal. However, Florida requires 60 percent of voters to approve a ballot measure, not just a simple majority, so its passage is far from assured. Although the three most recent polls indicate enough support for the amendment to pass, on average across six polls since April, it garners just 56 percent:

In the swingy Sun Belt states of Nevada and Arizona, citizen-initiated proposals to protect abortion statewide are still in the process of making the ballot. Abortion is currently legal in Nevada up to the 24th week of pregnancy — around when fetal viability is considered to begin — but the proposal would enshrine the right to an abortion up to fetal viability in the state's constitution, making it harder for future lawmakers to repeal. Supporters say they've gathered enough signatures for the measure, but its place on the ballot won't be confirmed until after June 26, the state's signature filing deadline. We've only seen two polls of the measure out of Nevada this year, and both suggested the proposal would pass easily: 73 percent of voters told Beacon Research/Shaw & Company Research/Fox News earlier this week that they would support an abortion-rights amendment; 68 percent of voters said the same to Noble Predictive Insights in March. In both polls, around one in five respondents said they would oppose it.

Meanwhile, four pollsters have surveyed voters about Arizona's abortion-rights initiative, which would amend the state constitution to protect abortion from state interference prior to fetal viability. On average, 58 percent of voters said they would support such an amendment, while 30 percent said they would oppose it and 13 percent were undecided. Abortion is currently legal up to 15 weeks in Arizona; earlier this year, the state Supreme Court declined to strike down a Civil War-era law that would have imposed a near-total ban on abortion, but the state legislature voted to repeal it.

Measures to protect abortion rights are also confirmed to appear on the ballot in South Dakota, Colorado and Maryland. While there have been no polls of the measures in Colorado or Maryland, a May poll from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy/South Dakota News Watch/Chiesman Center for Democracy at the University of South Dakota found that 53 percent of voters in deep-red South Dakota supported the proposed amendment to reverse the state's total ban on abortion, while just 35 percent opposed it. Should it pass, the measure would prevent the state from regulating abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Given public sentiment on abortion, the broad support for these measures checks out. Abortion rights have remained popular since the ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization: In the past month, the three national polls that have surveyed the legality of abortion found that, on average, 63 percent of registered voters said they think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 34 percent said they believe it should be illegal in all or most cases.

So, come November, could abortion help boost Democrats as it did in 2022? Abortion turned out to be a defining issue that year, when Democrats exceeded expectations in the midterms after campaigning hard on the issue following the Dobbs decision. And abortion is still a top priority for many voters, especially Democrats: In the latest YouGov/The Economist poll, 87 percent of Democrats said abortion was "very" or "somewhat" important to them, and 12 percent cited it as their most important issue. (Among all adults, that figure was 7 percent.)

Plus, the issue of abortion could be thrust back into the spotlight again this summer, when the conservative-controlled Supreme Court will rule on two consequential abortion cases, including one on mifepristone, also known as the abortion pill. But another anti-abortion ruling doesn't necessarily mean Democrats will get a boost: Just two weeks ago, a liberal challenger definitively lost a Georgia Supreme Court race after centering his campaign on abortion rights. That could foreshadow an Election Day where we see abortion measures pass handily while Democrats further up the ballot struggle.

It wouldn't be the first time voters split their tickets in this way: In 2022, Kentucky voters rejected a proposed anti-abortion constitutional amendment while reelecting Republican Sen. Rand Paul and maintaining the GOP majority in the state legislature that placed the referendum on the ballot. And nationwide, Democrats lag behind abortion in popularity: 538's generic ballot polling average has both parties effectively tied at 45 percent. So while abortion itself looks like it will remain a winning issue, there's no guarantee it'll boost Democrats again in November.