Why abortion may now motivate Dems more than Republicans

Throughout most of 2021, Trump voters were actually more likely than Biden voters to say that abortion is a “very important” issue to them. That matched the long history of abortion opponents rating the issue as more important than its proponents. But, as the chart above shows, this pattern was dramatically reversed after Texas’s abortion ban went into effect. Averaged across the five weekly surveys conducted by The Economist/YouGov since then, 51 percent of Biden backers rated abortion as a very important issue compared with just 39 percent of Trump supporters. Morning Consult’s polling shows that the share of Democratic women who said issues such as abortion, contraception and equal pay are central when voting for federal office nearly doubled immediately after Texas’s ban.

Democrats were also almost twice as likely as Republicans to have heard “a lot” about new restrictive abortion laws in both Texas and Mississippi (49 percent vs. 26 percent, respectively in an Oct. 3-5 Economist/YouGov poll). This is likely due to how little airtime Texas’s law has gotten both among Republican politicians and conservative media outlets like Fox News. Consider that Fox News mentioned “abortion” 392 times in September, compared with 1,326 and 2,969 respective mentions on CNN and MSNBC.1 Republican politicians and conservative media organizations are reportedly fearful of the potential backlash from the unpopular Texas law.

The fact that Democrats are both more likely to say abortion is important to them and to have heard a lot about Texas’s law dovetails nicely with a familiar pattern in public opinion research: Americans whose policy commitments are threatened respond by increasingly prioritizing those issues.