Home>Campaigns>FDU poll says fears over abortion might boost turnout, but not Democratic candidates

Grandmothers and great-grandmothers in support of legal abortion at a demonstration in Teaneck organized by former Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. (Photo: Francine Weinberg Graff via Twitter).

FDU poll says fears over abortion might boost turnout, but not Democratic candidates

Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll says 51% of state say abortion should be legal no matter what, 37% want some restrictions

By David Wildstein, November 03 2022 12:04 pm

Pro-choice voters are more likely to vote in New Jersey this year, but that doesn’t mean they’re more likely to vote for Democratic candidates, according to a new Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released on Thursday.

More than half of New Jersey, 51%, believe abortion should be legal under any circumstance, while 37% say they support legal abortion under certain circumstances.  Just 10% of the state wants to ban abortion in all circumstances.

“New Jersey is much more pro-choice than the country as a whole,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at FDU, and the executive Director of the poll.  “If Democrats are going to talk about abortion anywhere, they should be talking about it here.”

But the abortion issue doesn’t necessarily drive voters to the Democrats, a point that could affect close House race in the 3rd and 7th districts, where two incumbent congressmen are locked in competitive re-election contests.

A statewide generic ballot in the race for the U.S. House of Representatives, the FDU poll has Democrats leading, 48%-37%.  Among independent voters, Republicans lead, 36%-17%.   Women are voting Democratic by a 57%-27% margin, while men favor Republicans by a margin of 50%-37%.

New Jersey residents who believe abortion should be legal “only under some circumstances” are more likely to pick the Democrat – it goes from 24% to 33% — but among those who think abortion should always be legal – New Jersey codified legal abortion into law early this year – there is “no impact” on their electoral preferences.   “The net impact is that asking about abortion has no significant impact on vote preferences overall,” the poll found.

The poll included an embedded experiment to determine if support for abortion rights will change voting behavior: respondents were randomly assigned to be questioned about abortion either before or after being asked about if they would vote, and if they were supporting Democratic or Republican congressional candidates.  The pollster suggests that “by making abortion more immediately relevant to some respondents, we can see how the issue is impacting their answers to later questions on the survey.”

New Jerseyans asked about abortion first were marginally more likely to say they were “certain or almost certain” to vote (70%)  than respondents who were probed on abortion after first identifying how they would vote (66%).

“The big question in this election has been about whether abortion is going to mobilize people who otherwise don’t turn up in midterms,” Cassino stated.  “In New Jersey, the answer is yes, even if the effect isn’t as big as Democrats might have been hoping for.”

But the four point difference potentially masks a “larger underlying effect” – where the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade makes pro-abortion voters more likely to vote and anti-abortion voters less likely.

“For decades, Republican candidates have been able to mobilize their supporters by talking about abortion,” said Cassino.  “But now that states can do whatever they want on abortion, it looks like it’s having the opposite effect, making them more likely to stay home.”

According to the poll, pro-abortion voters asked about the issue first become 18 points more likely that they are certain or almost certain to vote.  But those who say they back legal abortion under some circumstances – which is code for restrictions – asking the about the issue first reduces the certainty of voting by 11 points.

And among those who oppose abortion under any circumstances, there is a reduction of 22 points among those who are likely to vote.

“Since the eighties, abortion has been very closely tied to people’s partisan views,” stated Cassino.  “There just aren’t a lot of Democrats or Republicans left who are at odds with how their party views abortion rights, so it makes sense that it’s not changing many votes.”

The FDU poll surveyed 801 New Jersey residents between October 24 and November 1 with a margin of error of +/- 3.5%.

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