COLUMBUS, Ohio — An exclusive Spectrum News/Siena College poll shows the economy is the #1 issue on voters’ minds as they prepare for the 2022 election, but abortion is proving to be another powerfully motivating issue , especially for women and Democrats.
what you need to know
- 62 percent of voters name the economy as one of their top issues
- Women and Democrats ranked abortion high among their voting priorities
- Left-leaning groups want candidates to target female voters with messages about abortion
- Republicans are asking candidates to focus on the economy and other issues of daily life
Among likely voters in Ohio, the poll shows that economic issues will be the primary driver driving them to vote, with 62 percent of voters citing it as their first or second most important issue. The next closest issue was the threat to our democracy at 30 percent, immigration at 21 percent and abortion at 20 percent.
The poll was conducted September 18-22 and has an error rate of 4.4%.
The results came as no surprise to Crystal Letts, the program director of Ohio’s Red, Wine and Blue, a left-leaning organization focused on getting suburban women to vote, but she envisions abortion playing a bigger role than the number given.
“Women are still reluctant to talk about these issues,” she said. “But when you bring women together and get them to talk about it, it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, of course, abortion.’ ”
Letts will readily admit that leading up to halftime, this is the #1 topic on her mind, and she is focused on reminding women across Ohio what might be at stake for them, and their children should have access to having what she considers basic health care remains restricted in the state.
“I have a nine-year-old daughter,” she said. “The knowledge that she could potentially be in a situation where she would need abortion services and that she would be denied that opportunity and God forbid that she had an ectopic pregnancy and was denied care in time to save her life. All those things are what suburban women think about.”
Across party lines, the energy around the issue seems to be waning for Republicans. Only 11 percent said it was their first or second most important problem. Warren County Republican Party leader Julie Byrne said that’s because it appears to be a done deal for Ohioans.
When the Dobbs ruling was passed and Attorney General Dave Yost enacted the state’s Heartbeat Act, virtually all abortions in Ohio were banned. And even though the law is suspended due to a court challenge, Byrne expects the law to stay on the books.
“I think a lot of the democratic process for dealing with abortion was already addressed in Ohio, and we already had a rule for Dobbs to go into effect,” she said. “People have already had a chance to think about what Ohio law should be and that got done right in our general assembly.”
The Heartbeat Act was passed in 2019, more than two years before the Dobbs decision. The Spectrum News/Siena College poll shows that 60 percent of likely voters in Ohio oppose the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. For female voters, that number rises to 69 percent.
Additionally, female voters were more likely to cite abortion as one of their top issues, with 29 percent of women compared to 13 percent of men.
“For suburban women, we’re all still feeling this hurt from COVID 19 and how much it’s taken from us and our families and how many people have lost income,” Letts said. “Having fewer opportunities to control our own bodies now is unjustifiable to me. It’s incredible.”
Letts believes candidates who make access to abortion a part of their message to voters will have a better chance of winning over women, especially in lesser-known local and state races.
“The Ohio Supreme Court is really the last resort to stop some of these horrific abortion laws and these extreme abortion laws that are coming through the state legislature,” she said.
Byrne, meanwhile, isn’t worried about Republicans losing women. She still sees business as king.
“I mean go out and buy groceries for your family and it’s going to be a lot more expensive this year,” she said.
Additionally, Byrne said that among women Republicans have a winning issue when it comes to parents’ right to have a say in what their children learn in the classroom.
“The Democratic Party, whether it’s trying to kill your baby in the womb or trying to take away your parental rights in school or healthcare, is constantly trying to get between parents and their children,” he said you. “And as a mother, that’s not a good place.”
Threats to our democracy ranked among the top issues for both parties and gender. Republicans and men had a much greater interest in immigration than Democrats and women.