Poll: Trump remains vulnerable on abortion with independents, some Republicans

Half of voters in a new POLITICO-Morning Consult poll support states making their own laws about abortion access, compared with just 35 percent who oppose that.

Apr 25, 2024 - 07:07
Poll: Trump remains vulnerable on abortion with independents, some Republicans

Donald Trump’s leave-abortion-to-the-states tack may be the least harmful position the former president can take as reproductive rights remain the favorite campaign trail cudgel of Joe Biden and Democrats in the post-Roe era.

Half of voters in a new POLITICO-Morning Consult poll support states making their own laws about abortion access, compared with just 35 percent who oppose that.

But the poll also shows the former president remains vulnerable on abortion with independents and even with some Republican voters who are unhappy that the Supreme Court overturned federal abortion rights — a signal that Trump could struggle to reverse the GOP’s losses over the issue, even if his new position is more popular. He may also face challenges if voters or lawmakers push him to articulate a more detailed stance on the issue that runs afoul of either side of the debate.

The survey — conducted after Trump rolled out his abortion policy earlier this month — also highlights areas where Biden can still gain ground on the issue as he seeks to tie Trump to the Supreme Court decision and the patchwork of unpopular state abortion bans that have cut off access to the procedure in almost all circumstances in nearly a third of the country since the ruling.

Trump received significant flack from the anti-abortion movement when he said that states and their voters should set abortion policy after Roe and declined to call for federal restrictions on the procedure. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the politically powerful anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said she was “deeply disappointed” in the former president’s decision, saying it “cedes the national debate to the Democrats.”

However, the poll suggests conservative voters are giving Trump considerable leeway on the issue. While more Republicans support a federal law prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks than advocate for leaving the issue to states, the GOP is largely lining up behind Trump, the survey shows. Three-fifths of self-identified Republicans say they support states making their own rules on abortion, a number that jumped to three-fourths when they were told that’s the position Trump supports.

At the same time, more than twice the number of Democrats support federal intervention on abortion than believe the issue should be left to the states.

While independent voters favor both policies equally, at nearly 50 percent, fewer oppose the state-based approach — 37 percent, compared with 53 percent for 15 weeks. That suggests that while Trump might not be winning over new voters based on his policy, he might be neutralizing concerns among more moderate voters who support him on economic issues but might have had reservations about voting for him based on his abortion views.

Still, 6 in 10 independents are unhappy that Roe was overturned — and nearly 4 in 10 Republicans are, too. While the poll found that only a third of independents say they would vote for a presidential or congressional candidate who agrees with their stance on abortion access, even if they disagreed with their stance on most other issues, those are margins that would make a difference in close races in battleground states.

The poll also shows that Biden has room to further tie Trump to the fall of Roe — even though the former president has done that himself. In his abortion policy announcement video, Trump declared himself “proudly the person responsible” for ending Roe, bragging about his role in appointing the three conservative justices key to the Supreme Court ruling.

Nevertheless, respondents were more likely, at 66 percent, to say that congressional Republicans were responsible for ending abortion rights in the United States — the GOP-controlled Senate did confirm the justices that overturned Roe — than they were Trump, the man who appointed those justices, at 58 percent.

While respondents are split on Biden’s handling of abortion — with 46 percent each saying they do or don’t trust him on the issue — they were more likely to say they disapprove of Trump's handling of abortion (51 percent) than approve of it (41 percent). Only a quarter of independents say they approve of Trump’s handling of the issue, compared with more than a third for Biden.

There’s also a knowledge gap Biden must overcome as he courts moderates on the issue. While nearly two-thirds of Democrats have heard about the recent Arizona Supreme Court decision upholding the state’s near-total abortion ban from 1864, only 56 percent of independents and 46 percent of Republicans have.

The poll also reveals the peril of candidates on either side of the aisle getting into the weeds on abortion policy on the campaign trail.

The results show, for instance, greater support for restoring Roe’s protections than establishing a federal law legalizing abortion until fetal viability, around 24 weeks, which was the Roe standard. Eighty-three percent of Democrats, for instance, favor bringing back Roe, compared to 67 percent who want federal viability legislation.

Nevertheless, banning abortion nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy with rape, incest and life exceptions continues to enjoy significant support, at 54 percent. Half support allowing abortions until fetal viability, while 37 percent support banning the procedure only except to save the life of the mother.

The survey finds continued broad support for in vitro fertilization in the wake of the Alabama Supreme Court decision earlier this year that declared frozen embryos are children. Three-in-four voters support continued access to IVF, including 64 percent of Republicans, 78 percent of voters over age 65, and 65 percent of evangelicals.

The POLITICO-Morning Consult poll was conducted online April 12 to 15, surveying 1,993 registered voters. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.