It is too early to know for certain how the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade will affect the 2022 election in Oregon.
The June 24 ruling has sparked protests across the state and prompted many Democratic elected officials to promise they will protect abortion rights. But a 2017 Oregon law already guarantees the right to unrestricted abortions.
Abortion could become a major issue in the race for Oregon governor, where two pro-choice candidates — Democrat Tina Kotek and non-affiliated Betsy Johnson — are facing right-to-life Republican Christine Drazan.
The same could be true in the Fifth Congressional District, where pro-choice Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner is facing right-to-life Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer.
But one of the most recent polls on abortion in Oregon found most voters ranked abortion as their least important issue. It was conducted in January 2022 by the Portland-based DHM Research firm.
According to the poll, 67% of Oregonians said that abortion will be very or somewhat important in how they vote for governor. That may seem like a lot, but it is actually the lowest of all issues they were asked about. At the top was the cost of living at 92%, followed by homelessness at 90%, health care at 88% and crime at 87%. Other issues ranked higher than abortion were COVID-19 at 79%, immigration at 75%., racial justice at 73% and climate change at 69%.
According to the poll, only 2% of voters rated abortion as the most important issue when voting in the 2022 election. That includes 1% of Democrats, 4% of Republicans and 2% of minor party and non-affiliated voters.
That compares to 22% of statement voters who rated the cost of living the most important issue, followed by homelessness at 12%, COVID-19 at 11% and economic inequality at 9%.
The poll revealed a number of demographic differences. Men and woman were almost tied when rating abortion as a very or somewhat important issue at 68% and 70%. But the ranking varied by political affiliation, with 85% of Democrats saying that but only 62% of Republicans and 58% of minor party and unaffiliated voters.
The results also varied by race, age, education and residency.
DHM Research co-founder John Horvick said national polling indicates the Supreme Court ruling will likely motivate abortion rights supporters who are already leaning Democratic. But, as emotionally-charged as the issue is, it is still one of many voters are paying attention to.
"The takeaway for me is that it is very likely that abortion will be a more important issue to voters this year. And that it probably motivates Democrat and left-leaning voters more than Republicans and those on the right. However, voters will be motivated by many issues — especially the cost of living, homelessness and crime — and abortion isn't likely to be the decisive issue for very many voters," said Horvick.
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